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19 mars 2008

Lanois Finds His 'Church in a Suitcase'

Daniel Lanois, "Here is What Is" (

For Daniel Lanois, it's always about the atmosphere.

Photo credit: Jennifer TipoulowListen to a clip of Daniel Lanois' "Where Will I Be"

The tremendously gifted producer, known for his work with U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and many others, has made a career of assembling just the right musical textures and ambience, crafting breathtaking soundscapes along the way. He has also released a handful of solo albums, including the 1989 masterpiece, "Acadie," which should be an essential element in any music connoisseur's collection.

So on the infrequent occasions when Lanois does emerge with a solo album, it's typically cause for celebration.

"Here is What Is," is the artist's sixth release and was originally available as a digital download. It's now seeing its physical debut, issued in conjunction with the DVD premiere of a film of the same name, which documents Lanois and his work in the recording studio.

The music is wonderfully sparse, dominated by Lanois' favorite instrument, the pedal steel guitar, which he calls "My little church in a suitcase."

He's accompanied by jazz drummer Brian Blade and the great Band keyboardist Garth Hudson, the latter in particular who adds some beautiful work to the disc, particularly during the lengthy piano introduction to "Lovechild."

There's a mystical quality to much of the album, one that can be heard on "Where Will I Be," which was initially recorded by Emmylou Harris on her Lanois-produced album "Wrecking Ball." A subtle spirituality can be heard on that song, a theme that Lanois brings much more to the forefront on "Joy;" the marvelously sung "I Like That;" and especially on "This May Be The Last Time," a roaring gospel track powered by Blade's father from the Zion Baptist Church.

Bits of dialogue from the film also make their way onto the CD, including a few conversations between Lanois and his longtime colleague Brian Eno. One, dubbed "Sacred and Secular," finds Eno discussing atheism, while Lanois counters with how his love of the pedal steel guitar takes him to his own sacred place.

Musical minimalism reigns supreme on "Here Is What Is," which doesn't quite match the enduring brilliance of some of Lanois' early solo work such as "Acadie," yet nevertheless serves as a welcome reminder of his artistic splendor, which stretches far beyond his production work.

The disc is also being released as a deluxe CD/DVD package, with the DVD featuring more than an hour of additional footage - including alternate versions of songs from the film - as well as a booklet and photographs, including one photo signed by Lanois. This edition is limited to 3000 copies. Check out for additional purchasing information.

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