Trixie Whitley

Fourth Corner

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Trixie Whitley has played stages all over the globe, but she is best known as lead vocalist in Daniel Lanois' supergroup Black Dub. Whitley, still in her twenties, is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with the confidence and savvy of a schooled veteran. She's been performing in Europe and New York since she was eleven, in mediums ranging from music and dance to theater. Fourth Corner is her debut full-length; it follows three EPs that began with 2008's Strong Blood (produced with Me'Shell Ndegéocello and Dougie Bowne). She is the daughter of the innovative (andcriminally underappreciated) guitarist and songwriter Chris Whitley. Her primary collaborators on this self-penned 11-song set are producer/keyboardist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), and engineer Pat Dillett -- both have lengthy credit sheets. There are a handful of other guests, including drummer Ben Perowski and Black Dub bassist Daryl Johnson. Lead-off single "Breathe You in My Dreams," with its brooding, elegiac intensity, sparse instrumentation, nocturnal effects, and deeply soulful vocals is an excellent introduction to her gifts as singer and writer. Whitley is firmly grounded in roots traditions -- vintage soul, R&B, blues, and rock -- but she invests them with a 21st century modernism that extends these traditions toward indie rock with intuitive production, wily hooks, strategic effects, solid lyrics, and that amazing voice. She peels the leathery scars off the listener's heart while bearing her own in each tune. Her slide guitar playing is clearly influenced by her late dad's (the barely contained feedback and distortion in the scorching rocker "Hotel No Name" and the lone National Steel blues in the moving closer "Oh, The Joy" are prime examples), but it's never the focal point; it's an elemental service to her songwriting, as are her drumming, bass playing, and piano skills). "Pieces," with its layered chamber strings and skeletal percussion loop, support the emotional tightrope that is her singing. "I Need Your Love" is a hybrid retro-soul with an infectious nodding rhythm. The jazzy "Morelia," is elegant but packs a wallop. The atmospheric title cut unwinds gradually, hovering and drifting on a shimmering frame with only her voice to ground and illuminate the poetic crevices in the lyric and shed light on the rumbling emotions beneath. Fourth Corner establishes Whitley as a sophisticated, mature songwriter and a passionate vocalist just beginning to realize her potential.

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