on 21 April 2004
I don't know how this moody /atmospheric beauty slipped under my radarundiscoverd for so long! I put off buying this many times as I alreadyown Whiskey.. & Field Songs, & thought from the audio clips it sounded toostereotypically 'grunge', ('that' word- I know- but its well understood)for my tastes. Its always been the slightly folked out & country'd upquality of Marks work that I like, but seeing as I love this mans voice,honesty & charm- my curiosity gave in.
Recorded in '89' 5 years before Nirvanas 'Unplugged', WS was Marks firstsolo venture whilst at the time still holding down his job as lead singerfor Seattle band The Screaming Trees. You cant help but draw comparisonsbetween this & Unplugged as they share similar musical & historicalterritory. Both Kurt & Chris are on this album playing lead & bass ontheir first cover of Leadbellys In The Pines/ Where did you sleep lastnight, a heavier darker & more powerfull version than on Unplugged. Therest of the album except for DITDark, is mostly a mellow & introspectiveaffair, with long time collaborator Mike Johnson (ex D.Junior's), gentleacoustic arrangements, lending excuisite warmth & tenderness. I can onlyconclude that this is the 'real deal', the absolute soulfull essence ofwhat that whole 'Seattle sound' /genre was all about, (not that theyactually came from there but you know..) There is nothing in the leastbit contrived about these songs, and the vocal /musical stylings thatlater became a formula for many, appear here with original & heartfeltsincerity. How songs about death/ escape, addiction, desperation & sorrowcan make for such beautifully stirring listening, only Lanegan can know. A complete romantic, not in the obvious hearts & flowers sense, thinkN.Young, Van M, Nick Drake, & the old delta blues singers, Lanegans moreyouthfull voice (still showing signs of that rich Waits- ish baritone),sings moans & cries with a raspy hoarseness that has me mesmerized. Cobain clutching a copy of WS was once quoted as saying "this mans voicecould make anything sound good"..or something to that effect. The 'nofrills' procuction & Marks soulfull vocals / lyrics, result in an intenseintimacy, as if in the room with you. Mark gives 100% of himself & moreon these songs, & shares that aspect of vulnerability, imperfection &fragility, that seems to be at the core of his somewhat 'cathartic' work. All subject matter comes straight from the heart & is deliverd with suchpassion you feel humbled & quietend, spellbound as someone is sharingsome part of thmselves with you so deeply personal. Am I overreacting? Probably, but if you 'connect' with this album, youll know that it wouldbe impossible to talk about it in any unpassionate, impartial impersonalway, coz that would be everything that its not.
If I had to pick a favourite..(& there are too many really), I guess itwould be Winding Sheet. A dark haunting acoustic melody, that has thehairs on my arms standing up, whilst seducing me away into its numbingpsychadellic feedback drenched beauty. It envelopes you like some warmcomforting opiate, ready to lull you away. The vocals are sheer ecstacyas mark sings & cries, "...at night when the dogs from hell come out..roam my house in chains of gold.. the darkness dares my eyes to close...". Cant put into words the effect this song has on me- STIRRING. There arehowever numerous beauties; the tender pretty & minimal Wildflowers, withits strange subtley out of tune - but perfect acoustic guitar. The lushbut sad desperation of Mockingbirds ".. get me out im starting to burn, Icant let go for the life of me.. some hold tight.. some turn.. my wholelife out in front of me.. two mockingbirds makin sense of it"... & I couldgo on.
I am gratefull that I own this (what I regard), as an astonishing seminalpiece of work. It has me alive with emotions that make me hold dear whatit is to be human; full of contradictions, beautiful & ugly, uplifting &sad @ the same time, kinda like life wouldn't yasay?
Perfect forreflecting as the seasons turn.
If you've not already got it, check out the more mature Mark on Fsongs(2001), & the covers album of old Southern Soul, folk & country songs on"Ill Take Care of You". Its brilliant to watch someone evolve & matureexploring their original influences. Oh, & the newy 'll be out soontoo..Bubblegum, with numerous collaborators inc. J Hommes (QOTStone Age) & a saucy duet with the hugely talented PJ Harvey! Needless to say WS hasbecome one of my favourite albums ever.. & I wasn't even expecting it.