I have long been a fan of Mark Lanegan's work with other artists, notably his collaborations with Isobel Campbell, but have heard very little of his solo stuff. And having heard this 2012 release I think I have been missing out!
As I said, I heard of Lanegan through his collaboration with Campbell, so was a little unprepared for what I heard here. It's certainly not as laid back as I was expecting! From the off this is an album of guitar and drum led fast blues, with a muscular musical backing that provides a perfect backdrop for Lanegan's gravelly, abused voice. And it's that voice, full of expression and pain, that dominates the album.
This will probably draw a few critics, but I occasionally found myself comparing this to some of Leonard Cohen's work, especially on the album The Future. Their voices have a lot in common, and whilst Cohen's backing was never as rocky as Lanegan's, the arrangements were at times similar. In tone `Harbour View' in particular reminded me of Cohen's `Democracy'. The songwriting doesn't quite reach the same levels of beauty, but there are sad and moving tales here of times past that really do leave their mark on you.
In all, it's a muscular, elegiac anthem to the past, with Lanegan's tortured growl lending the music real weight and dignity. I love it, 5 stars. And here's hoping the rest of his back catalogue is as good.