is the seventh Mark Lanegan record, and the first since 2004's Bubblegum
. It was recorded in Hollywood, California by Alain Johannes at his 11ad studio. The music was played by Johannes and Jack Irons with appearances from Greg Dulli, Josh Homme et al. Mark Lanegan has sung with Screaming Trees, Queens Of the Stone Age, The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, Soulsavers and Isobel Campbell. He resides in Los Angeles and has two dogs.
Like a fleeing convict whose survival demands constant movement, Mark Lanegan has lent his life-scarred blues-rock growl to various causes in recent years. But none of his hired-gun gigs – Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli, Soulsavers – holds a candle to his first solo album since 2004’s Bubblegum. Blues Funeral deepens his pitch while exhibiting a range and grace beyond his death’s-head profile: you wouldn’t mistake it for anyone else, but its intoxicating potency and surprise swerves elude concerns that his outlaw front might calcify in cliché.
The Gravedigger’s Song packs pile-driving proof that he’s more than anyone’s side-man. Wise to the shadow his walking-dead reputation casts before him, Lanegan sings of "piranha teeth" bared, invoking images of a vampire (or ex-junkie) driven by dark appetites. His muscular band size up to his voice with the required fearlessness; Dulli and Queens of the Stone Age’s Alain Johannes and Josh Homme number among the powerhouse posse thickening the album’s air.
The subsequent heart-stopping plummet into Bleeding Muddy Water’s soul-sick dirge typifies the high-drama rollercoaster sequencing here: vertiginous highs, queasy comedowns. Detours to the book of hard-living clichés ("these tears are liquor") occur but Lanegan also conjures stop-you-dead images of an evocative, lived-in power ("a mountain of dust that burns in your mouth"). Phantasmagoria Blues and St Louis Elegy haunt familiar turf – wracked confessional and high-plains howler respectively – but he sells them with the conviction and character he invested in his magisterial 1999 covers set, I’ll Take Care of You.
And the double-takers? On Ode to Sad Disco, Lanegan essays gliding electro-pop, a jaw-dropping move executed with jaw-dropping assurance; on Harborview Hospital, his vocal verges on rueful ("All around this place / I was a sad disgrace"), a rarity for a man not renowned for looking back. Both take his voice’s weathered grace to fresh heights, as does the lysergic, synth-laced psychedelia of the closing Tiny Grain of Truth, where Lanegan casts himself as a "firewalker… neon priest… junky doctor… shadow king", drifting into the "city at night". Whichever Lanegan you prefer, his is a mighty voice of formidably expressive multitudes, here given room to roam, and to roar.
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