Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Hawk

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Hawk

B+

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

Album: Hawk
Label: Vanguard

Where once it seemed slightly odd that Isobel Campbell (of early Belle And Sebastian) and Mark Lanegan (of Screaming Trees) had decided to sing together, it’s now almost sad to imagine their voices apart. Two more complementary sets of pipes have rarely been paired—and while that’s been the intention all along, the duo’s third full-length, Hawk, still banks on that delicious friction, and does it well. Campbell’s pixie-like chirp and Lanegan’s slow-burn growl entwine to do particular justice to Townes Van Zandt’s “Snake Song,” one of two covers of the late Texas country-folk legend. Throughout the song’s pulsing, loping blues, the duo’s voices don’t harmonize so much as curl around each other like perfume and pipe smoke. Hawk’s other Van Zandt cover, “No Place To Fall,” is silkier and prettier—which makes it a shame that Campbell takes a back seat in favor of a guest vocal from singer-songwriter Willy Mason, who does nothing but shamelessly mimic Van Zandt. Of the originals that remain, the Lee Hazelwood-and-Nancy Sinatra vibe of “Time Of The Season” recasts Christmas carols as eerie, orchestral confessionals, and “You Won’t Let Me Down Again” proves itself a wise choice as the disc’s single: Featuring a lulling groove, breathiness from Campbell, griminess from Lanegan, and a stinging guitar solo from Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, the song puts a chipped, gritty edge on Hawk’s consistently subdued beauty.