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Friday, June 01, 2012

Daniel Lanois -- Acadie


Daniel Lanois has produced some of my favorite albums of all time.  U2's The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree, and Peter Gabriel's So, among many others.  Those albums are huge, epic, and decade-defining, so it comes as a surprise that Lanois' solo debut, Acadie, sounds like the winter soundtrack to a small Acadian village in Canada...or Louisiana.
Lanois is a native of Southeastern Canada, and for inspiration, he spent much of the time leading up to the recording of Acadie in South Louisiana. For those not in the know, those two regions are uniquely linked.  Lanois obviously absorbed a lot of the sound down here. Take  "Under a Stormy Sky," for example, which features Lanois freely singing in both French and English, and sounds like every parish fair I've ever attended (for you Yankees...we ain't got counties down here...we have parishes). I mean that as a compliment.  Who doesn't enjoy a parish fair?

There are many songs in this realm, accordion and all, but  Lanois doesn't completely run away from the big sound he defined.  Starting with "Fisherman's Daughter," Lanois begins to employ the effects-laden guitar and keyboards that pushed U2 to the top of the charts, only in a far more subdued fashion.  "White Mustang II," co-written by frequent collaborator, Brian Eno, wanders around atmospheric streets before being suddenly punctuated by a feisty trumpet--another element Lanois' south Louisiana stay obviously inspired.  "Where the Hawkwind Kills" is as close to a stadium as Lanois gets, but the rest of the album continues in the smaller, more personal vein.
There is a spiritual element to Acadie as well.

Lanois' cry for God to "help us through the night" in the glittering caves of "Ice" is a particularly affecting moment, as is his radical re-working of album closer, "Amazing Grace," which employs the vocals of Louisiana-born Aaron Neville.
Acadie is quite a personal statement.  In just twelve songs, Daniel Lanois incorporates his heritage as a Canadian, the connection he feels to south Louisiana,* and his own unique musical language together to create something altogether original.  The warmth and joy he evokes in icy conditions is something I wish more artists could embody.

*(This makes three out of the last four artists in this review series who hail from Northern lands but tip their musical hats to the bayou)*

1989 Opal
1. Still Water 4:29
2. The Maker 4:13
3. O Marie 3:13
4. Jolie Louise 2:41
5. Fisherman's Daughter 2:47
6. White Mustang II 2:54
7. Under a Stormy Sky 2:20
8. Where the Hawkwind Kills 3:51
9. Silium's Hill 3:00
10. Ice 4:26
11. St. Ann's Gold 3:31
12. Amazing Grace 3:47

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