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Check Ahead: Trixie Whitley, 'Fourth Corner'

On the triumphant debut album from the powerful soul singer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Trixie Whitley's debut album "Fourth Corner" is out on January 29th. (Courtesy of the artist)

We first met Trixie Whitley in 2010 when she came to the Soundcheck studio with Black Dub, the blues-rock band helmed by producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris) and drummer Brian Blade. Whitley is the daughter of late blues musician Chris Whitley, and has performed herself since toddlerhood -- but despite her lineage, she was still a neophyte among the Black Dub veterans. Yet, once she opened her mouth to sing, this newcomer let loose a raw, powerful rock-inflected soul sound -- somewhere between Janis Joplin, PJ Harvey and Me’shell Ndegeocello -- that more than matched her seasoned counterparts.

It was a voice -- full-throated and passionate -- that at times almost felt too raw. Tense, and intense too. Watching Whitley sing, her eyes scrunched shut, I unwittingly felt my shoulders hunching up in kind of sympathy gesture. So much was at stake. Which is why Whitley’s debut full-length record Fourth Corner is such a triumph. The same emotional delivery and raw performance is there, but any uncertainty is gone. What’s in its place is the more liquid, confident statement of an artist on the verge.

Fourth Corner (out Jan. 29) packs a wallop from the first note of the opener "Irene," a song set over a Dougie Bowne drum loop recorded “in the early nineties in NYC.” The album is off and running from there, from the propulsive “Never Enough” to the exquisitely crafted “Pieces,” the pleading vocal acrobatics of “Need Your Love,” and the searing guitar on “Hotel No Name.”

The title track, “Fourth Corner,” finds the Belgian-born New York-based Whitley searching for home: “Conflicted by the West, challenged by the East / Gotta walk through the border of the Fourth Corner,” she sings. But the album crests with “Breathe You In My Dreams,” and this is where Whitley’s voice is at its silkiest and most emotional, perhaps lighting a fire under the feet of this century's most popular large-voiced blueswoman

While Whitley handles the majority of the guitars and percussion on the album, she also has the über-talented team of Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a Doveman) and Pat Dillett as her backing band, co-producers and post-production engineers, with string arrangements from Rob Moose. They all leave their imprint too. But Fourth Corner ends where Whitley started: voice and guitar, alone in a room, and going right for the gut.


Audio is no longer available for this feature. But, you can watch a video from the album sessions.


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Comments [8]

Glenn B from South

Saw her father, Chris Whitley, in a one-man show in New Orleans in the late 80's, I think. He came out shy, barefooted and bare-chested, and his music gave me one of those life events one never forgets.

Trixie Whitley - raw and powerful with Daniel Lanois' Black Dub on NPR's tiny desk concert - I was intrigued.

Several clicks later on Soundcheck, I hear Chris' ghost in Trixie's "Never Enough". Gave me chills on the 1st listen, gave me that scalp tightening-schoolboy-blush blood rush in my face on the 2nd and 3rd. "Fourth Corner", however, gifts us further with Trixie's own voice and sound.

Polished but not sold-out-commercial, she is at one of those one-of-a-kind higher levels of expression.

Jan. 27 2013 06:13 PM
Ellie Mae from usa

My soul is soothed,I can't get enough of her sound,it will pleasantly "haunt" me for years to come.A classic indeed.Thank you David who turned me on to Trixie via her fathers music.

Jan. 23 2013 08:46 PM
Nestor from Oudenaarde, Belgium

Fantastic album, this is an instant classic.

Jan. 23 2013 02:19 PM
Powen from San Antonio, TX

What a pleasure

Jan. 22 2013 10:34 PM
Rafael from Brazil

a soul itself, full-hearted voice. oh, very welcome trixie.

Jan. 22 2013 10:20 PM
Tony from North Carolina

Well, as the last song title says, OH, THE JOY, yes Trixie, oh, the JOY your music will bring many people.Nothing but the best of for your future, which should be quite bright, sing on girl...

Jan. 22 2013 07:17 PM
predrag markovic from Bor , Serbia

Trixie brought new color to the picture . Hat off.

Jan. 22 2013 01:48 PM
Xilef from Montréal, Québec (Canada)

A new superstar in the rock univers ... and what a beautiful and bright star!!!

Jan. 22 2013 01:42 PM

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