Black Dub is a new band whose debut album came out just last week, headlined by a 23-year-old singer with little name recognition. But don't be fooled: Black Dub reflects two remarkable intertwined musical legacies. Daniel Lanois is both a great guitarist and the producer of classic albums by U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and others. And singer Trixie Whitley is the daughter of Chris Whitley, who released a string of oft-remarkable, blues-infused rock records before succumbing to lung cancer in 2005.
For fans of the elder Whitley, Black Dub's rise is bittersweet but ultimately inspiring: Trixie Whitley carries on impressively in the tradition of her greatest influence, to the point where "I'd Rather Go Blind" (which closes this set but was left off Black Dub's self-titled debut) sounds like a long-lost Chris Whitley cover. But where her father generally stayed low-key and let his steel guitar provide moody shading, Trixie Whitley is a fearless, almost feral singer.
At the NPR Music offices, Whitley and Lanois brought a variety of instrumental backing, including an electronic bed for the single "I Believe in You," only to ditch many of the accoutrements on the fly. The result is a gripping and revealing performance. Though almost painfully shy before and after her set — in between songs, she barely knows what to do with herself — Whitley comes alive when she's singing the blues; she seems almost possessed as she contorts her face and digs deep for notes as if no one else is in the room. Meanwhile, Lanois cuts a supportive, even fatherly figure: His masterful work on a 12-string acoustic guitar provides ample backup, but he looks like he's there for moral support, too. Together, they come off as warm, vulnerable and ferocious in equal measure, not to mention ideally suited to share our intimate stage.
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