In the ten years between his second and third solo albums, Daniel Lanois kept doing what he did best: producing other people’s records. He achieved some acclaim working with Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, and even shared a Grammy for Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind. He also produced the soundtrack to Sling Blade, where his own compositions and selections of covers worked very well both on the screen and in your CD player.
Shine was distributed by the Anti label, then riding high as the new home for Tom Waits. Whatever sales they hoped to get from Lanois are unknown; thematically sits somewhere between his first two albums. The best song is the first track. “I Love You” has exactly two chords, and includes harmonies from Emmylou over a typically swampy sound. Bono shows up on “Falling At Your Feet”, which was likely the focus cut. “As Tears Roll By” gets its rhythm from an old Charley Patton record, and builds sonically on that.
Many of the tracks are instrumental, giving him a chance to show off his proficiency at the pedal steel guitar, pointedly outside of a country & western frame. As with most instrumentals, some provide soothing atmosphere, while others, such as the highly Eno-like “Matador”, suggest doom and gloom.
Shine doesn’t stand out so much as exist, and that’s fine. For all his occasional steps into the spotlight, Daniel Lanois is simply not a frontman. His voice doesn’t need to be as up in the mix as it is, and the hubris that kept For The Beauty Of Wynona from being great is still in evidence. But it’s always nice to hear what he’s got “cooking in the kitchen”, as his liner notes say.
Daniel Lanois Shine (2003)—3