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The most unlikely pairing in rock is now three albums old, and still it’s surprising that Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan have very much in common at all, let alone the ability to inhabit the same songs. Yet for all the eyebrows raised by a country-folk partnership between the fragrant, whisper-voiced founding member and cellist of Belle and Sebastian and the former ‘exhaustion’-prone ex-junkie singer with Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, it’s a union that just keeps on giving, with the steelier, more focussed Hawk the best they’ve given yet.
They may take co-billing, but the plaudits all belong to Campbell. As much as Lanegan’s gruff, Marlboros ’n’ bourbon growl is a draw card, Campbell is writer, producer, arranger and constant counterpoint to Lanegan’s malevolence. Hawk cements her standing alongside maverick serial collaborators such as Kurt Wagner and Will Oldham.
It’s in the way she blends country, blues and deep soul into something entirely her own, like a latter-day Bobbie Gentry. Come Undone revisits the torn yet unconditional love of Bettye LaVette’s Let Me Down Easy and James Brown’s It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World; You Won’t Let Me Down Again (with former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha on guitar) and Snake Song are black-hearted warnings to anyone who dares get too close; and Get Behind Me is a nail-hard bar-room stomp.
Sunrise – a solo Campbell track – could be Richard Hawley playing alongside Nancy Sinatra; Cool Water, one of two duets with Willy Mason, is a piece of lo-fi Johnny Cash and June Carter playfulness; Eyes of Green filters a Celtic ballad through Appalachian backwaters; and Lately revels in a touch of Hammond-led gospel to close the album on a joyous high. It’s also a sly nod to Bob Dylan, a particular Campbell hero: never one for the pernicious act of front-loading, pick up almost any Dylan album and the final track, as with Lately, will likely be amongst its best. Go on, try it.
During the album’s opening song, We Die and See Beauty Reign, Campbell and Lanegan sing that, “We f***** it up / forced the pace”. But nothing could be further from the truth.--Andy Fyfe
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Top Customer Reviews
My first impressions are that it isn't as strong as the previous albums overall, however it's still a lot better than most music out there and there are some great moments in there.
Trying to work out why I wasn't quite so impressed with this album I relistened to my personal favourite 'Ballad of the Broken Seas'. What I love about that album is the use of the two artist personalities Mark's growling apocolpytic cowboy and Isobel's lilting folk temptress are at their best when they have a dialogue together. Songs like 'The False Husband' where he asks and she answers, or the super sexy 'Ramblin' Man' with their overlayed vocal tracks are simply amazing. Sometimes they would trade off individual tracks so Mark gets the tital track and Isobel get's 'Saturday's Gone' and the rest of the time they come together in sweet harmony.
Well... 'Hawk' relies much more on this last type of song, essentially Mark leading and Isobel providing little more than backing vocals. Their collaberation began as her idea and her style guided much of the earlier work, but on this third record it feels like Mark is driving, much more of his sound and less of hers - though in certain songs that perfect balance is still there, most clearly in the haunting opening track 'We Die and See Beauty Reign'(which unfortunatly got me really excited and left me a bit disappointed with what followed). 'Come Undone' is also very good, but reminded me of the superior earlier song 'Come on Over (Turn me on)'.
Isobel does get two solo tracks again 'Sunrise' and 'To Hell and Back again', but they are placed back to back and so don't punctuate the album as well as before.Read more ›
When they first appeared together in 2006, with the sublime Ballad Of The Broken Seas, we were all awestruck at how the incredibly unlikely combination of Lanegan's gruff growl and Campbell's sweet lyrical phrasings mix to give a sound of amazing depth and feeling. On this, their third full length album, the surprise at how well the combination works has worn off a little, we are now in awe of the sheer consistency of their work together, and how every album reaches such heights.
Once again the mood is reflective, with tales of love and regret that would fit in well for an evening alone with memories and a bottle of wine. The opening few tracks are slow, smoky pieces that just burn straight through to the soul. From about track six the tone becomes a little more varied, with the inclusion of a few nice up tempo tracks that evoke the same mood but stop the record becoming monotonous. A lot of work has gone into putting the tracks into the best listening order to make this a coherent album, and it shows.
A highly recommended album, one that will appeal to those who like meaningful and emotionally intense music which packs a real punch. If there is any justice then this album should win a few awards. Excellent work Isobel and Mark, I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
This outing on the other hand, is different. It does feature Lanegan much more, and subtly changes the direction of their collaboration. Some of the songs are more modern and guitar driven, while still keeping a lot of that folky vibe. There's a few swinging blues-type numbers too. I get a slight Nashville feeling listening to some of it. I agree with the other reviewer that perhaps the Campbell songs are a bit jarring, though perhaps for different reasons; they are much weaker than Lanegan's numbers, and don't suit the vibe of the first few songs on the album, but I expected that.... ;-) Standout tracks include "You Won't Let Me Down Again" & "Snake Song."
You'll see I still gave it 4 stars, because the strength of the good songs more than makes up for any weaknesses (unlike "Sunday at Devil Dirt....")I'll sum it up like this: If you are a Lanegan fan and you were disappointed with the last album, you will like this.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Isobel Campbells soft, gentle voice fits perfectly with Mark Lanegans low, deep voice resulting in something very unique and sexy. Read morePublished on 9 Feb. 2014 by Keri
Although the second album was okay this third is definetely a better all round record. There are no weak tracks & both vocalists are on top form. Read morePublished on 3 Oct. 2010 by Bob
... they're Isobel and Mark. Some argue that Isobel took too much of a backseat on this 3rd collaborative effort (well, didn't she write or co-write all the songs but two, co-mix... Read morePublished on 18 Sept. 2010 by Stan FREDO
I am almost afraid to review this CD as nothing I say will do it justice. But its so good I have to tell the world. Read morePublished on 26 Aug. 2010 by ReviewWithaView
Campbell is the main driver of this project, writing most of the songs, but these albums wouldn't have the same without Lanegan's voice. Read morePublished on 23 Aug. 2010 by klaher