Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk

When first hearing that Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan would be working together, back in 2004, I was very interested and excited about what that would sound like. With Campbell’s quirkiness and Lanegan’s unintentional, ever-present creepiness, this was sure to produce a unique sound. Unfortunately, their first two albums fall just short of expectation. Then, along comes Hawk, an album that fully lives up to the potential of what this mismatched duo should be capable of. It appears that Campbell finally has a grasp on how to write songs that are perfectly suited for Lanegan to sing.

With Campbell’s Scottish pop background, and Lanegan from a 90’s grunge band, it’s surprising how well these two write and perform Americana. Hawk is not an Americana album per say, but with strong undertones of Blues, Jazz, Folk/Country and Soul, it would appear that this is the main influence. Having two excellent Townes Van Zandt covers doesn’t hurt this theory either.

Erupting immediately after the album’s haunting, solemn opener is “You Won’t Let Me Down Again,” perhaps the finest song Campbell has ever written. Gritty, dark and full of twang, it’s easily the highlight of this pair’s collaborative effort. The vocal performance is so spot on it sends chills down the spine. Campbell’s background howls, moans and harmony are the perfect balance of eerie and beautiful. It’s a splendid accompaniment to Lanegan’s offering of anger, confidence and conviction.

“Come Undone,” another high point of Hawk, is almost unbearably sexy and full of longing. It’s about falling apart in the presence of someone, feeling your actions are uncontrollable, with all rationale flying out the window. Musically, vocally, lyrically, every aspect of this song conveys this feeling so perfectly. The sultry jazz rhythm is comforting at first, and then it sinks in that the staccato of the piano has been tiptoeing through the entire song. The orchestration of the strings, going from beautiful melody, to plucking, to frantic bowing creates dissidence and unease. On top of these layers lies Campbell and Lanegan’s duet. You can almost picture these two staring and feeling this way about each other, trying to contain and restrain one another.

In its’ every moment, Hawk is a representation of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. It’s full of talent, it’s unnerving, it’s well written, it’s well performed, it’s comforting. These two have no business working together, and while their music reflects just that, that is precisely what makes it so good.

1. We Die and See Beauty Reign
2. You Won’t Let Me Down Again
3. Snake Song
4. Come Undone
5. No Place to Fall
6. Get Behind Me
7. Time of the Season
8. Hawk
9. Sunrise
10. To Hell & Back Again
11. Cool Water
12. Eyes of Green
13. Lately

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk, reviewed by Daniel G on 2010-11-30T11:18:50-08:00 rating 4.3 out of 5

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