Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Aug 20, 2010 Issue #32 - Summer 2010 - Wasted on the Youth
In a collaboration that began with the echoes of old Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood records, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan have completed their third shared album, this one delving deeper into the Americana that Campbell has been exploring since her 2006 solo album, Milk White Sheets. However, where the first and second Campbell/Lanegan albums relished in the electric juxtaposition of two very different voices, things tend to go soft on Hawk. Campbell and Lanegan are still one of the most interesting and engaging vocal pairs in music, but here the duo sound positively hushed. Even over rollicking instrumentation, as in the rockabilly-esque "Get Behind Me," Campbell and Lanegan seem to be trying to out-whisper each other, which ultimately causes the brilliance of both singers' styles and vocal tones to be lost in the mix.
The album starts strong with its first four songs, including a Townes Van Zandt cover ("Snake Song"), the smooth and sensuous, string-filled "Come Undone," and the enchanting "You Won't Let Me Down Again," the latter featuring some brief electric guitar care of former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha. But somewhat bizarrely, Willy Mason crashes the party at track five for a rendition of Van Zandt's "No Place To Fall." Campbell and Mason are an interesting pairing, especially as Mason's voice sounds positively falsetto when heard immediately following Lanegan's gravelly bass, but the track's placement in the sequencing takes the listener aback. And not until Campbell's solo turns of "Sunrise" and "To Hell & Back Again" at tracks 9 and 10, the former which is easily the album's most haunting moment, does Campbell truly seem to hit her vocal stride. Throw in a skronking horn-filled instrumental, and Hawk is a curious addition to the Campbell/Lanegan catalog. A gospel/soul-inflected Lanegan solo turn on the final track, "Lately," is stunning, but it simply seems too late, presenting only the sense of what could have been. (www.vanguardrecords.com)
Author rating: 4/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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