Bob Lanois
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Bob Lanois

When you have a superstar for a brother, it’s hard not to hit him up for a little help. Bob Lanois embarked on creating his first solo album with a musical god on his side.

Younger brother Daniel (U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan) is spoken of in the hushed tones reserved for a deity. And why not, it was U2’s Bono who referred to him as the best musician he has ever known.

A celebrated engineer and producer himself, Bob stepped away from the knobs and dials of the control room, and, freed from the tangle of cables and microphones, took a chance with his own collection of songs — varied, moody, engaging instrumental pieces — produced by the genius of Daniel.

“I totally had to ‘give’ while working with Dan,” says Bob. “He demands it and is somewhat of a shaman that way in that he will trick you into revealing your true self.” Snake Road is an exit ramp off the superhighway of contemporary sonic exploration. It wraps you in the past like an old sweater, knitted in the homespun idiom of Quebecois folksong. It also ventures into the future. “It’s forward moving. I believe I am more a futurist than I am a traditionalist,” proffers Bob. “I would rather plunge into the future.”

That future is the signature dreamlike landscape of Daniel, with the surprisingly lithe harmonica of brother Bob piercing and challenging the rich, shifting textures of ethereal backdrop like a well-rosined bow pulled across low fiddle strings. “It’s not a harmonica sound,” he says, almost apologetically. “Although I never aspired for it to be something else; it just turned out that way.”

It was five years ago that a buddy handed him his first harmonica. As Bob tells it, at the time he was wearing the hangdog expression of a man with troubles when his friend slipped something metallic into his palm. The friend leaned close and smiled. “You can’t have a long face when you play a harmonica in the key of C,” was all he said. For Bob, who is also a gifted visual artist, the creativity immediately began.

The brothers Lanois, pursued by a similar muse, worked collaboratively on Snake Road, Bob laying down melody and Daniel digging into his rich palette to paint the background. “We’d worked together before but never in this way,” explains Bob. “It was so dynamic and unfolded so quickly that is was slightly shocking.”

The resulting album, with its 9 beautifully-crafted, often cinematic melodies, is wonderfully simplistic, haunting and enchanting. It has been met with critical acclaim by the press, has been a favourite of the CBC and has been topping the charts at campus radio as well.

Since the release of Snake Road, Bob has filmed two music videos for the Bravo! Channel and has taken his ambient brand of folk music and improvisation to stages throughout Canada and Europe - much to the delight of his fans.