When it was announced in 2005 that the gruff vocalist and former Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan would be recording a collaborative work with the honey-toned singer and ex-Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell, there was reason to be a little surprised at how well their particular aesthetics would mesh together. Five years later, with the release of Hawk, their third full-length together, the surprise has been replaced with the simple thrill of hearing how robust and creative this musical partnership has become.
This new work furthers their exploration of the dustier corners of American roots music, with blues and folk dominating the album, but sent through the prisms of Campbell’s deep love of ’60s pop and Lanegan’s whisky drunk meanderings. The songs hang in the air like thick smoke, all atmospheric strings and lightly pushing drums and guitar.
The album is a testament to Campbell’s sharp musical visions. She was able to create an impressively cohesive work while recording all over the globe and including so many collaborators. For Hawk, she not only enlisted Lanegan, but pulled in regular collaborator Jim McCulloch (ex-Soup Dragons), former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, and the young folk singer Willy Mason who is given the spotlight on a pair of gorgeous Townes Van Zandt covers.
But, of course, the album soars when she and Lanegan are singing in tandem, their voices melting around each other like candle wax on steamy tracks like “Come Undone” and “We Die And See Beauty Reign”. For what appears to be a sexless relationship between the two, they’ve certainly created one sexy, sexy LP.