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ISOBEL CAMPBELL & MARK LANEGAN:: Sunday at Devil Dirt (Album Review)

They may be duet partners, but Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan occupy different plains of existence. On the duo’s second collection of stark, thematically archetypal blues and folk songs, Lanegan plays the role of doomed man, shuffling from one calamity to the next, hopeless and heartbroken. The former Screaming Trees front man is a hair less hoarse than Tom Waits, but he has the same hobo’s heart and air of romantic resignation.

Campbell, meanwhile, is the angel on his shoulder — a breathy voice that, by echoing his woes, eases his mind. The Scottish singer and former Belle and Sebastian member wrote or co-wrote all but one of the 12 tunes, and as with her previous collaboration with Lanegan, she proves that even pretty girls think ugly thoughts.

She’s in love with the mythology of early American music, and her songs reference fire, rivers, and wayfaring ships — clichés she handles with care, if limited imagination. For his part, Lanegan burrows into the material, too committed to the album’s mood to worry much about melody.

Though world-weary tone is about all some songs have to offer — “The Raven” and “Salvation” are more style than substance — much of the album wears its pain like stylish black duds. Lanegan and Campbell are different creatures, but they have the same concept of cool.
(- Kenneth Partridge)