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Daniel Lanois: Shine


Daniel Lanois

Album: Shine
Label: Anti

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Daniel Lanois is best known for producing or co-producing albums by U2, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, and others, but each of his three solo studio albums has suggested that he could walk away from his day job any time he likes. The belated follow-up to 1993's For The Beauty Of Wynona, Shine takes an approach familiar from its predecessors, scaling back Lanois' skill at creating expansive soundscapes and focusing on his abilities as an intimate singer and songwriter. An album soaked in steel guitar and melancholy atmospherics, Shine begins with help from some famous friends: Harris and Bono turn up on "I Love You" and "Falling At Your Feet," respectively, and Lanois integrates them into the mix without letting them overwhelm it. But finding the right balance has long been Lanois' area of expertise. On Shine, he hangs modest songs against lush backdrops and lets the qualities of one bring out the best in the other. "As Tears Roll By" reaches deep into recorded history to make a Charley Patton sample its backbone, and provides a key to Lanois' craft: Technology may advance, but music still comes down to the people who make it, not the tools they use. As a singer, Lanois has a winning voice, and as a songwriter, he has an exceptionally clear one that's steeped in the sounds of his adopted New Orleans hometown, even though that influence has become less explicit with each solo album. More interested in enveloping listeners than overwhelming them, Shine lets hushed, reflective songs fade into accomplished instrumentals that hearken back to his early collaborations with Brian Eno. With nothing to prove, Lanois has made a record that simply reflects his pleasure in making music for its own sake. Hopefully, in the decade to come, he'll have enough vacation days saved up to make even more.