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Mark Lanegan | Field Songs (Sub Pop/Beggars Banquet)
Ex-Screaming Trees frontman Lanegan follows up last year's lugubrious covers album, I'll Take Care Of You, with a fresh set of songs, all firmly grounded in that dark wasteland of American folk and country and anchored by his behemoth of a voice. And what a voice it is, though subdued as a suburbanite now - the caterwauling guitars and big rock choruses of his former band have been laid by the wayside - Lanegan still mines a deep, resonant seam of emotional angst imbued with an almost unquenchable yearning. Predominantly acoustic, with a slow, sultry feel, this is one of those albums that subtly creep into your consciousness, lacking the immediacy of his previous work but promising, in turn, a greater longevity. From the acoustic guitars and eerie atmospherics of One Way Street to the Duff McKagan assisted Fix, there are plenty of ghosts on these tracks, not to mention, pain, insecurity, rage and repression. No Easy Action, the most upbeat track, is a tense and turbulent thing with a great looped female vocal straight out of a Hammer film. Lanegan's voice rises and builds against a sweeping maelstrom of lap steel and mellotron, slowly unleashing and peaking in the last verse. His voice is everywhere - whether it's the folky Resurrection Song or the semi-epic Kimiko's Dream House (which sounds like one of those glorious psychedelicized ballads off the ST's masterpiece Dust) - there's no doubt that Lanegan's in full control on this, the most accomplished of his five solo records. The (almost) title track, Field Song, is stunning but unfortunately fades just as a supremely fucked-up guitar riff comes into view while Pill Hill Serenade is an organ laced highlight suffused with melancholy. Even without his voice, the instrumental Blues For D, there's still something special going on - it's the kind of creepy, hypnotic slice of invisible Americana that M.Ward has recently made his own.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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