By the time you’ve reached the end of Daniel Lanois’ new memoir Soul Mining: A Musical Life there’s no doubt in your mind: the man is passionate about life. He’s passionate about what he does, where he comes from, and where he’s going. He’s passionate about old tube amps, vintage pedal steel guitars, and sound equipment that still allows for the human touch. He’s passionate about architecture; he’s passionate about 21” motorcycle wheels; and, most of all, he’s passionate about people.
Soul Mining is Lanois’ story, but it’s chock full of the people he’s shared his life with. Yes, there are chapters about his studio experiences with folks such as the Neville Brothers, Emmylou Harris, U2, and Bob Dylan, but he also acknowledges the people he feels shaped him into who he is.
Lanois writes about the talent of Curlie, a boyhood pal whom he refers to as “the best singer in our neighborhood … his encouragement has a lot to do with the fact that I am singing at all today.” He writes about the soul of the street-singing Fat Boys and the sausage vendors in Los Angeles’ “Eastside.” And he writes about funk man John Lovet, whose name may be unknown to most, but whose influence on a young Lanois has never been forgotten.
Daniel Lanois’ memoir could’ve easily been a “look-at-where-I’ve-come-from-and-look-what-I’ve-accomplished” bit of swagger and boast – but it never comes close to being that. As he swings from sounding like an excited young Edison as he and Brian Eno unlock sonic secrets, to remembering his young-boy fear of forgetting the addresses of any of his 120 newspaper route customers, Lanois writes with an openness and honesty about himself that leaves you feeling this is truly an interesting and humble man. When he describes some of the processes used in recording the highly successful albums he’s produced, Lanois does it in a way that explains what he was feeling and what he was looking for; he makes the case and leaves you understanding where his heart was at the time.
It’s that passion thing; Soul Mining is packed with it.