Show Review: Trixie Whitley at the Brick and Mortar, San Francisco

by Laura B. Whitmore
Posted Dec 7, 2012 at 2:12pm

The first time I saw Trixie Whitley play live, she apologized for having a cold. It was at last year’s tour with Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub at the Fillmore, and man, she could have had the flu and still sounded amazing.

Last night’s intimate showcase at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco just cemented how talented this petite firebrand is. Her solo performances introducing songs off her upcoming album, Fourth Corner, were full of her signature soul and angst.

Although you could tell she was annoyed by the casual and noisy crowd, once she dug into a song, she was all in. Avid fans crowded the stage to soak up her electrifying presence. This woman is equally comfortable on keys, guitar, and I’ve seen her sit behind a kit, too.

Does Whitley’s name seem familiar? Yes, she is the daughter of blues/rock singer songwriter Chris Whitley, and she's been learning, performing and touring since she was a girl. At 17, Trixie started to perform her own music in clubs throughout New York City. She recorded her first EP, Strong Blood, in the spring of 2008, produced with Me’shell Ndegeocello and Dougie Bowne.

In late 2008, legendary producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young) contacted Trixie and invited her to the Berklee School of Music, where he was in residence. Their stunning collaboration of Trixie’s song “I’d Rather Go Blind” — with drummer Brian Blade (Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman) — was filmed and started to create an immediate buzz in music circles. Soon, with the addition of bassist Daryl Johnson (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neville Brothers), a super group, Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub, was born.

Set to release on January 29, 2013, Fourth Corner and its first single, “Breathe You in My Dreams,” showcase Whitley’s undeniable talent as a solo artist. Fourth Corner was recorded in New York with producer/keyboardist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman, who's also worked with Glen Hansard, Antony and the Johnsons, Grizzly Bear and the National), engineer Pat Dillett (David Byrne, St. Vincent, Mary J. Blige), with string arrangements by Rob Moose (Antony, Bon Iver).

With a sparse rig consisting of a small Fender combo, a vintage Gibson and a small-body Martin acoustic, plus an old Wurli electric piano, Whitley’s minimalistic accompaniments showcased her larger-than-life voice. Her evident comfort behind her instrument and her control over her soulful, sometimes sweet, sometimes gritty vocal captivated the crowd. Sadly, she didn’t seem happy with the result. But I was!

Find out more about this amazing talent at trixiewhitley.com.

Here’s the video for Whitley’s first single, “Breathe You in My Dreams”:

Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Dean Markley, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the co-producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.