Review Summary: Unlikely duo deliver another worthwile collaboration.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Isobel Campbell is a name that not all may be familiar with. Until 2002, she was part of the indie pop act Belle & Sebastian, starting her solo career after leaving them. Mark Lanegan is a slightly different story, being the lead vocalist of grunge band Screaming Trees, and a frequent collaborator with Queens of the Stone Age. In 2006, these two musicians collaborated together on an album called Ballad of the Broken Seas
. Their chemistry proved fruitful, and another record followed in 2008’s Sunday at Devil Dirt
This recent release Hawk
is already a third studio album by this unlikely duo. The two vocalists’ singing styles and voices completely contradict, but also wonderfully complement each other. Campbell’s singing is soft, tender, very feminine indeed, while Lanegan’s gruff voice is rough even when it's trying not to be. Because of this, his voice dominates when put next to hers. For that reason, it is perhaps best that Campbell is really the woman artistically in charge here. She wrote most of the songs, she handled the production, and she is the first thing you’ll notice when looking at the cover. As much as Lanegan may not be much of a presence songwriting-wise, his voice does enough.
Whether it be the stomping blues of Snake Song
or the rockabilly-tinged Get Behind Me
, Campbell finds her influence in American blues, folk and country of old. It fits the duo like a glove, allowing their vocal chemistry to really hit the right snare. Lanegan does not appear on all songs, but Campbell’s solo appearances such as Sunrise
and To Hell & Back Again
are certainly worth it. Hawk
is however at its very best when the two fully harmonize, as heard on the string-accompanied first single Come Undone
, one of the true highlights.
The only knack this record really has is the instrumental title track, an overwhelming jazz fusion song that feels very much out of place next to the far more intimate material found on the remainder of this disc. It’s a minor complaint though: Campbell and Lanegan have crafted another album that proves how compelling they are as a duo, and in particular how their voices work so quite brilliantly together. Sadly enough, Hawk
will no doubt be among the more overlooked albums of 2010, something which it absolutely should not deserve.