Music/Lyrics: Daniel Lanois
Vocals: Dave Matthews
Original Artist: Daniel Lanois
Original Album: Acadie (1989)
Historian: Ellis Godard
Rolling Stone called Daniel Lanois “the most important record producer to emerge in the '80s” for his work with U2 (The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree), Peter Gabriel (So), and Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy). Each of those albums expressed spirituality more explicitly than the artists had previously. No wonder, then, that beginning in 1989 Lanois’ own musical expressions became more spiritual. Known earlier for ambient work with Brian Eno, he has since become known for a song he wrote that year, “The Maker.”
In the same vein as “Amazing Grace,” Lanois’ “Maker” draws smooth lyrics across a simple but powerful musical base. The singer laments having erred into darkness, and pauses to sigh at his choosing to be saved. The song’s smooth spirituality has fooled some to think it is an old hymnal. But even though not penned until 1989, “The Maker” has already become a classic, covered often by Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Garcia Band, and the Dave Matthews Band. Lanois himself re-released it as part of his sound-track to the 1996 movie Sling Blade – and, a year later, recorded “Amazing Grace” for a compilation by the same name.
Phish has performed the moving tune only once, emerging from a jam with the Dave Matthews Band to close the 10/15/94 encore. (The band shared the tune in the stolid section of the “Bible Belt,” ending a show which also featured a host of songs about spiritual awakening, including “Amazing Grace,” “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” and “Bouncing Around the Room.”) But Trey performed it over nine years later, with Dave and Lanois himself, at the 1/15/04 Dave Matthews and Friends show.