Unlikely coupling make their third album together - only this time it's difficult to tell who's in charge
When twee ex-[a]Belle & Sebastian[/a] singer [a]Isobel Campbell[/a] declared she was writing new material with grunge luminary [a]Mark Lanegan[/a], it seemed doomed to humiliating failure. It wasn’t. Their 2006 debut [b]’Ballad Of The Broken Sea'[/b] was a record ravaged by love-weary tales of the heart’s folly. Having duly repeated the formula on second album [b]’Sunday At Devil Dirt'[/b], they’d be pushing their luck if they pursued it any further now, as anyone who has seen their sexless live show will testify.
Little wonder, then, that Campbell has ceased to use Lanegan as her sole muse on this their third outing, instead roping in the likes of wet-behind-the-ears troubadour Willy Mason to duet with her amid the sweet folk of [b]’Cool Water'[/b] and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s country ballad [b]’No Place To Fall'[/b]. Former [a]Smashing Pumpkins[/a] guitarist James Iha also makes an appearance, on the raucous [b]’You Won’t Let Me Down Again'[/b].
Yet it’s clear Campbell still pines for Lanegan, musically. There’s no doubting the ferocity of the Screaming Trees veteran’s husky baritone, so it makes sense for Campbell to harness it. What is unfortunate is that she allows Lanegan to utterly dominate their duets. Here, Campbell is mostly relegated from beguiling chanteuse to a backing singer – most poignantly on [b]’Get Behind Me'[/b], where she does precisely that.
On [b]’Lately'[/b], Campbell doesn’t appear at all, Lanegan instead backed by a gospel choir. That Campbell should act the shrinking violet when she wrote, produced and arranged this record herself does her a disservice – one that she should remedy immediately, lest this improbable collaboration stop being an exception to the rule.
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Click here to get your copy of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan’s ‘Hawk’ from the Rough Trade shop.