I was disappointed when Isobel Campbell in Belle and Sebastian. I feared that her solo career would be too much like her previous 'Gentle Waves' side project, which was a bit too indie-twee with not enough good tunes. And I haven't really caught up with her until the new album Ballad of the Broken Seas.
Just as her former bandmates have ditched the twee through more muscular production and exploring new sounds, Isobel has gone for the most un-twee person she must have been able to think of to collaborate with. Mark Lanegan! He of 90s grungers Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and (most recently) his own Mark Lanegan Band.
What a combination! But it really works. His gravelly-voiced growl is the perfect foil to her breathy ethereal vocals. And their album of (mainly) duets is pretty good. It's growing on me all the time. After a couple of anonymous tracks, the album really gets going on 'The False Husband' and continues to get better. It's not a criticism that the highlight is the Hank Williams cover 'Ramblin' Man'. Obviously the original is great, but they really make it their own with a particular louche swagger. Nice. Other good'uns for me are 'Honey Child What Can I Do?' (with a fine orchestral backing) and the simple piano-backed title track.
The album has attracted the inevitable Gainsbourg-Birkin / Sinatra-Hazlewood comparisons, and although they're fair enough (heck, Campbell starts off 'Revolver' with a whispered "Je t'aime"!), the album has its own gently rolling dusty charm. And Mark Lanegan - that voice! OK - you can buy the album here, but I'm off to check out more Lanegan stuff...
Download: Honey Child What Can I Do?