We last heard from Daniel Lanois as a solo artist on 1993’s For The Beauty Of Wynona. Since then, he’s hardly been idle, producing albums such as Emmylou Harris’Wrecking Ball and Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind and, of course, working with the mighty U2. This makes it easy to forget that he began as a guitarist and songwriter back in Canada long before Eno recruited him as his cohort on The Unforgettable Fire and set him on the road to becoming the world’s most sought-after producer.
Shine was recorded on and off over the last few years in Mexico, Dublin, Paris, Canada and LA, in between production chores for the great and the good. Yet it’s lent a convincing cohesion by those moody, atmospheric textures that have always marked out Lanois’ production work. A master of studio technique, he nevertheless uses his skill behind a desk to enhance feel rather than substitute for a lack of it. Essentially, Shine is a guitar album, all chiming chords and mellow, golden lead lines. But above all it’s an album dominated by pedal-steel guitar, apparently Lanois’ first instrument. It’s almost impossible not to give everything that features the instrument a country lilt. Lanois is one of the few to manage it and, like Jerry Garcia, creates a more ethereal, spacey feel.
There are a handful of stunning instrumentals, but the revelations here are Lanois’ singing and songwriting. “Sometimes”, “Power Of One” and the title track have a searching, spiritual quality. “As Tears Roll By” glories in a laidback, Southern groove like JJ Cale, but with the gruff baritone replaced by Lanois’ melodious falsetto. “Falling At Your Feet”was co-written with Bono during the sessions for the last U2 album, and the greatest living Irishman adds his vocals to a song that would have graced almost any of the band’s LPs.
It may have taken him 10 years, but Daniel Lanois has made an understated gem.