Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Sunday at Devil Dirt

Rating: ★★★½☆

Despite it’s abilities to work, this still remains one of the strangest duos that has come to light. You could see Jagger and Bowie, but Lanegan and Campbell? Still, two albums in, they are perfecting their devilish-folk musings on Sunday at Devil Dirt.

As per usual, Mark Lanegan, former Screaming Trees singer, takes the lead vocals on this entire album, coating every single song in his whiskey-drenched Southern drawl, coming off like a less-carnivalesque Tom Waits. His voice is fitting for David Lynch screenplays, and yet he matches it with the sweetness of Isobel Campbell.

Most of the musical arrangements on the album come from Campbell, who continues to contrast her traditional role as queen of twee by creating brooding folks songs; each song is carefully constructed with equal part haunting orchestration and guitar picking. It’s this match of sounds that provides for a demonically sultry soundscape throughout.

Most of the time, Isobel doesn’t really make an appearance on the album, at least not as the focal point, which is disappointing, as her voice was one of the most memorable of the late 90s. Still, she does have some stand out moments, which make the tracks stand out from the rest. Her vocal bombast during the chorus of “The Raven” provides the perfect counter-balance to Lanegan. Similarly, the duo trade vocals on “Who Built the Road,” which demonstrates the unique harmony shared between these two juxtaposed musical characters.

One of the more endearing tracks, meaning one of the most upbeat–spiritually speaking, is “Keep Me in Mind Sweethear.” It’s a short number, but even Lanegan makes the longing sound natural, and not nearly as dark has his typical outing on this album. Oddly, at this point in the album, you can feel the lighter side of things shining through, which is ironic since it all comes at the end of the album, but it encourages you to look forward, and move on.

Overall, this is just another example of the dynamic shared between two great voices in independent music. It comes just in time for the cold weather to encourage whiskey drinking and story telling among friends; may your holidays come off something like this album.

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