Probably Mark Lanegan needs to be told to slow down – just a bit. But do you fancy that job? I talked to him on the phone once – and nice and all as he was at answering questions, giving just what he needed to – I don’t think I’d want to make the suggestion that he do anything other than what he wants to do. And when you hear that ominous, wonderful, near-perfect growl of a voice…well, it’s best to let it do what it does – and best, I (like to?) imagine that its owner keeps it working. With a voice like that I figure Lanegan is best keeping busy, rather than alone…thinking thoughts…
Here he teams with Duke Garwood – we get a real glimpse of Garwood’s multi-instrumental skills with the bookending instrumentalists, start of new chapter/case closed. In between times he’s just another helping to serve and deliver Lanegan’s muse. That’s how it works. That’s how it always works. And Lanegan is good at it and good at finding people to help him – Garwood is very good in this role. He is a decent mood conjurer.
He adds autumnal hues and a gentle psychedelia to Shade Of The Sun, and – well, to be honest, he doesn’t need to do a lot to songs like Death Rides A White Horse. You hear that title and add in the fact that Lanegan’s voice will guide it and you’re either signed up, ready waiting. Or you’ve already run a mile.
I do think Lanegan’s being overly praised for some almost-mediocre work. Blues Funeral was not special. Sure, it wasn’t terrible, but it really wasn’t all that great. And half of this album is only okay. But there is some wonderful stuff here – Mescalito, Pentacostal, Sphinx, Death Rides – it’s Lanegan doing what he does best, wrestling with religion, redemption, the dark side, the other side…
His voice guides the listener toward imagining grim outcomes. His voice caresses the spirit of these songs.
And for all of this talk of him as keeping company with Nick Cave and Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen – or, even, some combo of all of them – he’s closer in the songs he’s delivering and the way he offers them of fitting in with what Kris Kristofferson was about.
This is a better effort than Blues Funeral or most of the work he did with Isobel Campbell (and some of that, in its retooled Lee & Nancy kinda way, was really lovely). But there’s a new album out already, another by Lanegan this year…
So it’s time to move on. For now.
I’ll come back to this. Because I do like a lot of it. But I can see it getting lost in a sea of hype and too much praise. A better record from Lanegan will dwarf this and too many other albums from him too soon and we’ll be wanting to forget a great deal of what he’s done.