On paper, this collaboration just doesn’t seem like it would work. In my head I had been playing some kind of mashup of “Is It Wicked Not to Care?” and “Methamphetamine Blues” and it just came out messy and unfocused. If I was in charge of this pairing, I’d be in trouble. Lucky for those who have ears, I am not, and in practice, Campbell, she of Belle and Sebastian fame, and Lanegan, an increasingly Nick Cave-like solo performer and Queens of the Stone Age collaborator, sound absolutely wonderful together.
While both artists are fine songwriters and performers in their own right, they manage to conjure up a sort of dark mysticism, each one offering an original track on top of two covers on this EP. The title track, a cover of Hank Williams’ classic, is where the two singers converge best, in a strange and hauntingly beautiful way. Lanegan’s tobacco-coated voice is complemented by Campbell’s angelic tones, sounding something like a gothic modern update of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood.
The two originals on this short set are the simplest and most straightforward. Campbell’s “(Do You Wanna Come) Walk With Me” is a folky number, almost gospel in its melody, with harmonies sung sweetly by the unlikely pair. Lanegan’s “Revolver Pt. 2,” meanwhile, is less than two minutes long, but eerie and stark, Lanegan’s guitar reverberating quietly beneath Campbell’s ghostly coo. It’s the perfect set up for the duo’s cover of “St. James Infirmary,” however, which, when done by just about anybody, is chilling. The version heard here is no exception.
Ramblin’ Man doesn’t stick around for long, but it makes quite an impact. And it makes for a compelling preview of the full-length that Lanegan and Campbell have in store for later this spring. With songs like these as any indication, it’s bound to be one of the most creepy and beautiful records out this year.
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood – Nancy and Lee
Mark Lanegan Band – Bubblegum
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.