Album Review

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, 'Hawk'

August 23, 2010

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The opposites-attract logic behind the pairing of sweet-voiced Isobel Campbell (ex-Belle & Sebastian) and gruff-voiced Mark Lanegan (ex-Screaming Trees) is a no-brainer delight, now three albums strong. On “Hawk,’’ Campbell and Lanegan move through increasingly “lost highway’’ territory, from hymns of mortality (“We Die and See Beauty Reign’’) and dust-kicking Americana (“Snake Song’’), to weathered rock ’n’ roll (“You Won’t Let Me Down Again,’’ “Get Behind Me’’) and avant-roadhouse (the instrumental title track). Even their theft of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,’’ the slow burning “Come Undone,’’ is bloodshot with road-weariness. With all due respect to Campbell, Lanegan is the one with the idiosyncratic voice, dominating the mix when he appears. (Singer-songwriter Willy Mason, who appears on two tracks in Lanegan’s place, is nowhere near as charismatic.) On her two solo tracks, “Sunrise’’ and “To Hell & Back Again,’’ Campbell’s anemic whisper is paired with swooning arrangements for maximum Mazzy Star effect. At times it feels like this music will rise above simple pleasure, to something more fearsome or fearless, something unquantifiable and haunted — for now, however, the dichotomy between male and female will have to do. (Out tomorrow) ZETH LUNDY

ESSENTIAL “You Won’t Let Me Down Again’’