Review : Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt
PastemagazineAlthough he’s become a terrific solo artist, former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan still has a taste for collaboration. Whether as half of the Gutter Twins (with ex-Afghan Whig Greg Dulli), part of Josh Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age, or as an occasional member of Dulli’s Twilight Singers, Lanegan has often done his most compelling work in partnership with others whose strengths offset the raw power of his nicotine-and-bourbon-stained rasp. In 2006, this took the shape of Ballad of the Broken Seas, a duet with former Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell, whose sweetness-and-light persona is as removed from Lanegan’s barroom brio as Scotland is from Seattle. The album worked precisely because of the starkness of the contrast, going down like a tumbler of aged scotch. Sunday at Devil Dirt finds the pair reprising this approach with similarly rewarding results. Like last time, the new album features Lanegan handling lead vocals while Campbell takes on the writing, production and arrangement chores, resulting in a twilight-soaked bundle of songs for the wee small hours, when the light is low and the mood is too. Drink up....full text
AvclubThe latest collaboration from Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan—late of Belle And Sebastian and Screaming Trees, respectively—offers a combination that's instantly striking, though not exactly new: the gnarled male vocal and its glassy female foil. Perhaps familiarity makes that blend so resonant (the opener's title, "Seafaring Song," nods to tradition), or maybe it's just an aural parlor trick, but accompanied by lonesome plucked guitar, a smattering of strings, and upright bass as it is here, the mix is undeniable. The question: Can these two sustain interest over an entire album (their second together), or, like so many of their predecessors' contributions, will Sunday At Devil Dirt become mere ambience for the two things most commonly done in bed? As the second song, "The Raven," comes in, featuring Lanegan atop Campbell's wordless backdrop, it's clear that their chemistry not only extends beyond the niceties of their voices intertwining, but overcomes the potential for novelty inherent in their initial collaboration, 2006's Ballad Of The Broken Seas.
When Lanegan leads, the combo truly sings, his voice sounding inconceivably wizened against a backdrop of ghostly coos and sighs from his partner, and instrumentation that goes one of two ways: spare bluesiness, as on "Salvation," and bare-but-lush balladry, found on "Who Built The Road." But Campbell's attentiveness to mood (and the force of her counterpart's pipes) ultimately diminishes her spotlight; when she takes the reins for "Shotgun Blues," her voice is thin, atmospheric wallpaper. Always a gentleman, Lanegan does the heavy lifting—providing equal parts Tom Waits pulp creepiness, Willie Nelson-like hard-earned truth, and Lee Hazlewood come-on, allowing conductor-songwriter Campbell to nuance each song just enough to avoid stagnation. And, for now, the bedroom....full text
UncutGainsbourg and Birkin, Hazlewood and (Nancy) Sinatra, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop: say it how you will, but there was something a little too calculating about Campbell & Lanegan’s first collaboration, Ballad of the Broken Seas. It had its moments, but the songs relied too heavily on the contrast between the roughness of Lanegan and the sweetness of Campbell to be truly convincing.
Sunday At Devil Dirt inhabits the same scorched earth, but is a more confident record. Ironically, this confidence manifests itself in an understated vocal performance from Campbell, leaving the spotlight on Lanegan’s dusty baritone. He still sounds at times like a man who is lower than the heel of Lee Marvin’s left boot, but there’s a lovely tenderness to his singing, and he’s never sounded sweeter than he does on the brooding Trouble. (It’s traditional to compare Lanegan to Johnny Cash, but in this world-weary mode he’s closer to Kris Kristofferson, inhaling the fresh air on Sunday Morning Coming Down.)...full text
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