released August 24th, 2010
from the album - Cool Water
from all music
After vaulting to fame as a founding member of the beloved indie pop collective Belle & Sebastian, Isobel Campbell enjoyed success as a solo artist, recording lush and elegiac chamber pop under her given name, under the moniker the Gentle Waves, and with longstanding duet partner Mark Lanegan. Born April 27, 1976, in Glasgow, Scotland, Campbell studied classical cello as an adolescent. At the age of 19, she met aspiring singer/songwriter Stuart Murdoch at a New Year's party, and although their romance proved brief, she nevertheless agreed to participate in a planned recording session sponsored by Stow College's Music Business Administration curriculum. Dubbed Belle & Sebastian in honor of a beloved children's book and attendant animated series, the group issued just 1,000 copies of its 1996 debut LP, Tigermilk. Its shimmering, literate folk-pop immediately earned a worldwide cult following that further expanded with the release of If You're Feeling Sinister later that same year.
On 1998's The Boy with the Arab Strap, Campbell delivered her first lead vocal, "Is It Wicked Not to Care?" With her ethereal voice and striking, Jean Seberg-inspired looks, it was inevitable that she earned much attention from fans and media alike, and in the spring of 1999 she released her first full-length solo project, the Gentle Waves' The Green Fields of Foreverland.... A second and final Gentle Waves release, Swansong for You, followed a year later, but Campbell nevertheless remained a full-time member of Belle & Sebastian through mid-2002, co-writing the Top 20 U.K. hit "Legal Man" before finally exiting just prior to the release of Ghost of Yesterday, a collection of Billie Holiday covers recorded in collaboration with jazz musician Bill Wells.
After 2003's Amorino, Campbell kept a low profile for several years, finally resurfacing in the spring of 2006 with Ballad of the Broken Seas, a collection of duets with former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan. The two again collaborated on 2008's Sunday at Devil Dirt and 2010's Hawk.
Mark Lanegan's solo albums are sufficiently dissimilar in tone from those of his regular group, Screaming Trees, to make listeners wonder where his true interests lie. His records often employ a much more acoustic tone, and address much more serious, personal concerns. Despite ample critical acclaim, Lanegan always kept the Screaming Trees his primary concern (that is, until their breakup). The original plan for Lanegan's first solo recording was to do an EP of blues songs with Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Chris Novoselic, as well as Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel. That didn't work out, and The Winding Sheet ended up being recorded with Pickerel, guitarist Mike Johnson (later bassist in Dinosaur Jr.), and noted producer Jack Endino on bass. Released in 1990, the album included a cover of the Leadbelly folk number "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" from the aborted sessions with Cobain and Novoselic; it became the basis for Nirvana's version on MTV Unplugged. Despite a good reception from the underground, it took until 1994 for Lanegan's brilliantly assured follow-up, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, to surface, which again featured Johnson in a prominent role. Afterwards, Lanegan once again returned to Screaming Trees for what proved to be the band's final album, 1996's Dust. With the Trees on hiatus, Lanegan resumed his solo career with 1998's Scraps at Midnight, which followed in the vein of its predecessors. The follow-up appeared much more quickly this time; 1999's I'll Take Care of You was a quietly stunning covers album drawing on Lanegan's interest in roots music. Two years later, Field Songs arrived.
In November of 2003, after a short stint as vocalist with Queens of the Stone Age (he sang on the album Songs for the Deaf and appeared as part of the subsequent tour), the newly formed Mark Lanegan Band released Here Comes That Weird Chill: Methamphetamine Blues, Extras, and Oddities, an EP that anticipated the Lanegan Band's first full-length album, Bubblegum. Featuring guest appearances from Polly Jane Harvey, the Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli,Josh Homme, and Nick Oliveri of QOTSA and former Guns N' Roses members Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan, Bubblegum was released in August of 2004. In 2008, Lanegan, who had at this point been collaborating on and off with QOTSA and recorded albums with Belle & Sebastian's Isobel Campbell (2006's Ballad of the Broken Seas, 2008's Sunday at Devil Dirt) and the Soulsavers (2007's It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land), released Saturnalia as part of the duo the Gutter Twins (whose other member was none other than Greg Dulli, with whom he'd been touring as part of Dulli's outfit the Twilight Singers for the past couple of years).
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan seemed like an unlikely musical couple when they first began collaborating in 2006 — she of the breathy whisper, he of the deep, bluesy rasp. But their intriguing blend of bitter and sweet has turned into viable ongoing partnership, and on their third album together, Hawk, Campbell and Lanegan continue to merge their distinct but complimentary styles while adding a few new edges to their approach. While Lanegan didn't write any material for this album, someone got the fine idea of persuading him to dip into the Townes Van Zandt songbook, and his voice was tailor made for the grim undercurrents of "Snake Song," while on "No Place To Fall" he inches into a higher register than gives his voice a welcome vulnerability which perfectly suits Van Zandt's weary romanticism. "Come Undone," meanwhile, plays out over a taut R&B-flavored backing track with strings and a relentless single-note piano mirroring the tension of the lyrics, while "You Won't Let Me Down Again" winds out its dark, atmospheric melody with a dose of slashing guitar courtesy of James Iha. "Get Behind Me" is a rollicking dose of honky tonk fire, and "Lately" closes out the set with some passionate country gospel pleading. But the biggest surprise is the title track, a righteous blast of sax-driven blues that stomps and swaggers to hard that there's no room for vocals, and if it seems like an odd choice for an album from a pair of singers, it's wild and tough enough that no one is likely to mind. Much of the rest of the album follows the template of Campbell and Lanegan's first two albums, but if it's heavy on echoing atmospherics and open spaces, there's no arguing that Campbell (as producer and primary songwriter) knows how to make this stuff work, and her duets with Lanegan sound only more confident and intuitive with time. Ballad of the Broken Seas was a surprise because two seemingly mismatched artists proved to be a splendid collaboration; four years later, Hawk isn't as startling, but it's encouraging to know that the magic between Campbell and Lanegan not only hasn't worn off, it's manifesting itself in new and compelling ways.
1 We Die and See Beauty Reign Campbell 2:56
2 You Won't Let Me Down Again Campbell 3:30
3 Snake Song Van Zandt 2:48
4 Come Undone Campbell 5:43
5 No Place To Fall Van Zandt 3:16
6 Get Behind Me Campbell 5:09
7 Time of the Season Campbell 4:28
8 Hawk Campbell 2:28
9 Sunrise Campbell 2:31
10 To Hell & Back Again Campbell 4:45
11 Cool Water Campbell 3:37
12 Eyes of Green Campbell 1:51
13 Lately Campbell 4:47