Covered in kudzu and swathed in a blanket of humidity, spanish moss, feedback and reverb exists Futurebirds; six Georgia natives who currently call Athens “home.” In 2009, these folks self-produced and released the six song Futurebirds EP—one of undeniable character. Less than a year later, there was a full-length in the can. That album, Hampton’s Lullaby, garnered praise for its Appalachian harmonies and ethereal melodies. The band toured, and continues to tour in 2011, in support of that collection of songs, as well as in anticipation of two spring releases. The first, Via Flamina, a four song collection of new originals and inspired covers, dropped on April Fools Day via multiple formats. Only a few weeks later, on April 19th, Autumn Tone Records released a re-mastered version of the original EP. Sooner than later, Athens’ own up-and-coming label, Holy Owned Subsidiary, will offer the EP on One Hundred and Fifty Gram vinyl in a package featuring art hand-fashioned by the band. Only Four Hundred copies will be available.
During May and June, the band will support Grace Potter on the Bonnaroo Buzz Tour and perform at Bonnaroo, as well as tour with Drive-By Truckers and headline AthFest 2011. The band hopes to find your face in the crowd.
Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub (featuring Trixie Whitley and Brian Blade) Black Dub is the latest project from acclaimed musician and producer Daniel Lanois, a legendary guitarist and composer who has produced seminal albums for U2, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, Willie Nelson and Neil Young. Lanois is what historians like to call a musician’s musician.
In Lanois’ own words…
Black Dub is essentially a three-piece band with a high level of musicianship. We don’t operate on a technological grid. Nor are we tied to a page of fixed notes. Our songs are fluid. Often recorded live. One take. No overdubs. It’s a very old fashioned idea really.
I think that might be why we get such a strong response on YouTube. Each video we create is a live musical performance shot with a hand-held camera seen through the eyes of one individual. No cuts. No edits. It’s clear that people still have an appetite for something honest and authentic with real musicians playing live. In these sad times of prepackaged music, people yearn to experience something soulful, heartfelt, something meaningful. As simple as it sounds, real music is a rare commodity these days.
Our first CD is very real – kind of a rock thing, steeped in the Jamaican culture of dub, which I love. On a good day, I see myself carrying the torch of [famed Jamaican producer] Lee Scratch Perry. I wrote this music from a dub perspective, which I believe is very soulful.
What do I mean by soul? Soul music is a music that needs to exist, for the right reasons, beyond business preconceptions – natural reasons that resonate deep inside. I think this band has it. Whether we’re playing at a club or in the studio, at our best, there is something breathless and spontaneous going on here.
On Brian Blade…
Every stroke of Brian Blade’s drumming has church in it. This man grew up in the band at his father’s Baptist church in Shreveport, Louisiana, so he’s been serving singers all his life. A gospel choir is a mighty force and you can’t serve that kind of singing if you are a fake with a big ego. This is music that demands respect and humility. That’s what makes Brian’s playing so pure and free.
In addition, Brian honed his skills studying with New Orleans masters Ellis Marsalis, David Lee, Jr. Bill Huntington, Mike Pellera, George French, Germaine Bazzle, Steve Masakowski and John Mahoney. As a drummer, Brian is a true original, so inventive he never plays the same thing twice.
Don’t take my word for it. Ask jazz stars like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joshua Redman and Bill Frisell, with whom Brian has also worked. Or songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Seal and Nora Jones. Plus, Brian recorded several albums with his own bands, the Brian Blade Fellowship and Perceptual, as well as a solo album that came out last year.
On Trixie Whitley…
Trixie Whitley is an amazing singer with such a strong sense of commitment in her voice. She grew up on Etta James and the classic soul singers. Talk about soul. She’s got it, in her blood. Trixie comes from a family of musicians in Texas and New Orleans – her father being the late great blues singer Chris Whitley, a friend who I was lucky enough to work with many years ago. Trixie is young and full of fire: the voice of a generation.
Words from the songstress herself…
Black Dub is made up of many ingredients, but all the ingredients come from the same place: the soul. To me, soul music isn’t just Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. It’s Joni Mitchell too. It comes from a deep emotional place inside you. It’s pretty much the opposite of the comfy fast food approach to culture. It’s about what touches you, what penetrates your heart. It’s about how you work with what your soul responds to most.
Discovering the lighter side of Black Dub according to Blade…
Dan writes some heavy music, both instrumentally and lyrically. He writes from the heart, the mystery of the heart. That mystery from which our deepest feelings and secrets unfold: love and loss, joy and hope, fear and darkness. The name Black Dub may sound dark, but Dan always keeps a light on.
An evolutionary perspective from Lanois…
You know how every now and then you witness an impossible stroke of Mother Nature? Say, for instance, you’re looking up at some huge concrete bridge and you notice a tiny, delicate vine sprouting through the structure. Maybe a seed got stuck in a crack. The power in that little bud will eventually erupt into a labyrinth of vines across the bridge. If you tried to plan out something like that you couldn’t pull it off. But there it is, before your eyes, something magical just bursts into existence for natural reasons.
As a musician, I look for those little seeds that catch on their own. Spotting is what I call it. For me, music is not about inventing something from scratch. It’s about expanding on something that has a natural beginning. A flash of a moment that has something special about it. I like to flirt with such natural diversions. Oftentimes they can grow into something quite substantial.
I had the good fortune recently to visit Brian’s father’s church and sit in with the band. They were so many superb singers in that choir, real natural down-to-earth people with regular jobs who could out-sing practically any star in the music business. I so admire musicians like them. The way they see it, their singing, their voices belong to the community. They don’t sing for money. For members of that choir, singing is about praise.
I’m not much of a churchgoer, but I think of music as praise too. I think of God as a great molecular collective. If you’re trying to do good and you come to the end of each day having made a few improvements in your life, not necessarily monetarily, but spiritually, I think that’s godliness. I like that about Black Dub. It’s a collective. Without a doubt the people in this band embrace the same values. We are made of the same fiber, personally and philosophically. And in the end, I see that as the overriding ingredient of Black Dub. Beyond entertainment, beyond commerce, it is the fiber of our music. And that’s enough for us.
Watch videos of Futurebirds playing a Shiner Beer Session at The Do512 Lounge!
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