Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan are a folk duo who have collaborated to make three full-length albums since 2006. Isobel Campbell is the former cellist and backing vocalist for the Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian. She also recorded a solo album and two more using the name Gentle Waves. Mark Lanegan is the former frontman of the Seattle grunge band Screaming Trees. After that band split up, he recorded six solo records between 1990 and 2004, then another in 2012.
The first collaboration for Campbell and Lanegan was the 2006 album Ballad of the Broken Seas. That record was controversially nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize, and NME Magazine called it one of the best 100 records of the decade. The reason for the controversy is that the Mercury Prize is exclusively for British and Irish performers. Unlike the Polaris Music Prize, which would allow for a Canadian-American collaboration (provided that at least half of the band is Canadian or a landed immigrant), the Mercury Prize doesn’t have rules about this. However, the prize is for “British or Irish artists”, and it’s understood that collaborations with outsiders are not to be considered. This was explained away by pointing to the fact that Campbell wrote all of the songs.
The second album, 2008’s Dirt Devil was also original material, but it wasn’t as well-received as the first record.
Hawk features a couple of Townes van Zandt songs, and some critics called it their best album yet. It’s the only one that I have. It’s a dusty, country-ish ride , and I really like the way the two work together. Lanegan’s gruff and leathery style somehow is a perfect match for Campbell’s soft and silky style.
No matter how much I try to get more into the other songs on the record, I always come back to today’s song. It’s a bit different from the rest of the record. It’s less country-folk inspired, and more like a soul or doo-wop record. That’s not normally my thing, but I love it in this song. This is that song.
“Come Undone” by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
I really like the strings and the staccato piano bit. And as always, their differing vocal styles somehow complement each other beautifully. As a package, it sounds like something I’d expect to hear in a spy movie from the late 1960s.
It feels warm and snuggly to me. Just the thing for a cold and dreary day.
You can get Hawk from the amazon store in your choice of physical or digital formats here.