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Album Review

by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan


Review Date
5th October 2010
Reviewed by
Jeremy Taylor

2006’s collaborative effort “Ballad Of The Broken Seas” between the unlikely pairing of ex-Belle & Sebastian Scottish songbird Isobel Campbell and craggy voiced recovering grunger, ex-Screaming Tree and sometime QOTSA guy Mark Lanegan was something of an unexpected delight. It was one of those pairings that made a lot more sense when you heard it than when you heard about it. A sort of noughties Nancy and Lee, it was one of those rare records that kind of crept up on you (like ‘The Good, The Bad And The Queen’) and took a while to fully reveal what a strong album it really was.

The follow-up, 2008’s “Sunday At Devil Dirt” looked to repeat the trick, to somewhat underwhelming effect – it was basically indistinguishable the earlier record, but the songs were not quite as good. Thankfully, their latest collaborative effort, “Hawk” is something of a departure, and, to that end, a distinct return to form. It is perhaps a little rockier than its predecessors, and also features vocals from underrated US singer Willy Mason, notable on the fine, affecting cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place To Fall”, as well as some terrific, churning guitar from ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha (who must love playing behind singers who can actually sing…) on album highlight “You Won’t Let Me Down Again”.

This is an album that reeks of quality – beautifully recorded, sung, executed. Campbell is clearly something of an auteur, and Lanegan (always a bit of a hero round these parts for his left turns and unwillingness to do the obvious or predictable) clearly trusts her artistic instincts in fully letting her run the show – the original songs are penned by Campbell alone, and she also produced and arranged the entire set. If there are any complaints, they would perhaps be limited to thinking that the whole thing is occasionally a little too restrained, a little too ‘tasteful’, and that the instrumental title track is something of a mood-breaker/ mis-step. These are minor quibbles, though; this is a record that is consistently enjoyable, and like Watties, or Fisher & Paykel, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan has become a brand name you can trust implicitly.