Mark Lanegan - Blues Funeral Review
Posted by Andy Rackauskas on 04.23.2012
Mark Lanegan is back with a new solo album. Lanegan isn’t screaming for the Trees anymore, but his voice is as strong as ever. Will the vocal powerhouse deliver another fine outing? Andy Rackauskas hopes that the blues is truly not dead when he checks out “Blues Funeral”.
High Note Records
Release Date - 2/6/12
Mark Lanegan - vocals
Alain Johannes - guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
Jack Irons - drums
Aldo Struyf - keyboards (8, 9, 12), guitar (12)
David Rosser - guitar (3, 6)
Duke Garwood - guitar (2, 12)
David Catching - guitar (2, 11)
Martyn LeNoble - bass (7, 9)
Chris Goss - guitar (10), backing vocals (10)
Greg Dulli - backing vocals (4)
Josh Homme - guitar (5)
Shelley Brien - backing vocals (8)
Alain Johannes - producer, engineer, mixing
1 - The Gravedigger's Song - 3:43
2 - Bleeding Muddy Water - 6:17
3 - Gray Goes Black - 4:11
4 - St. Louis Elegy - 4:34
5 - Riot in My House - 3:53
6 - Ode to Sad Disco (Contains elements of “Sad Disco” by Keli Hlodversson) - 6:24
7 - Phantasmagoria Blues - 3:16
8 - Quiver Syndrome - 4:03
9 - Harborview Hospital - 4:31
10 - Leviathan - 4:22
11 - Deep Black Vanishing Train - 3:06
12 - Tiny Grain of Truth - 7:07
If you are not familiar with Mark Lanegan, you must remedy that immediately! Lanegan is arguably the best living vocalist on earth. He is a modern day Johnny Cash. His voice is that unique and strong. And pained. For a guy who is shy of 50 years old, his voice harbors the pain and anguish of a man twice his age. Leonard Cohen almost sounds like a Mousketeer compared to Lanegan. No disrespect to Cohen. But, Lanegan is seriously that underrated as an artist. For those unaware, Lanegan fronted the Seattle-based Screaming Trees from around 1985 until around 2000. They only achieved moderate success in comparison to their musical Seattle friends like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. Their only hit came mostly due to being on the “Singles” motion picture soundtrack for the song “Nearly Lost You”. During those years in the Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan started experimenting with solo material. He managed to work with all kinds of musicians including members of Dinosaur Jr. and even the late Kurt Cobain. (If you’ve not heard Lanegan’s version of the classic Leadbelly blues song, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” w/ Cobain on guitar, see below. Nirvana did a version of it in their legendary MTV Unplugged performance.) Besides his own solo work, Lanegan also lent his vocal prowess to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, the Gutter Twins (f. Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs), and Isobel Campbell. It was due to many of these sessions that Lanegan found most of his musicians on his most recent effort, “Blues Funeral”.
“Blues Funeral” is a fairly melancholy and somber record. It’s pretty much par for the course for Mark Lanegan. His gravelly, whisky and smoke infused vocals are right at home with such material. It’s simple unadulterated blues for 2012. For the record, Lanegan enlisted former Eleven front man and occasional Queens of the Stone Age touring and recording musician, Alain Johannes for production duties. Johannes manages to capture the grittiness of the outing while weaving a texture of modern and intricate sounds throughout. Johannes also provides the majority of guitar and bass on the album. To round out the core of the band, Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eleven, Pearl Jam), handled all the drumming chores.
There simply is not a bad track on “Blues Funeral”. However, there are a few that truly stand out. “Ode to Sad Disco” is a song that is a little bit out of the ordinary for Lanegan. The elecronica of it is not usual fare for a Lanegan tune. However, it is worth noting that Lanegan has experimented with similar sounds while working with the Soulsavers. Even with that said, “Ode to Disco” is still a bit more upbeat than one would expect.
On “Riot in My House”, Lanegan once again teams up with Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age). Like “Ode to Sad Disco”, the track is fairly upbeat. However, it is far more rockin’. Homme’s guitar definitely adds a big kick to the jam. Lanegan and Homme go back even further than QOTSA. After disbanding Kyuss and before forming QOTSA, Homme joined Lanegan with the Screaming Trees as a touring guitarist. Old habits apparently die hard.
Lanegan reunites with his Gutter Twin counterpart, Greg Dulli, on “St. Louis Elegy”. The song is pure Lanegan. His deep and smoky voice sounds hauntingly perfect infused in this fairly straight up blues song. Dulli manages to add just enough to the background while letting Lanegan shine. You get a sense that ghosts are singing a sad tale to the listener.
Lanegan’s desert rock connection doesn’t just end with Homme. He works with Chris Goss (Masters of Reality, producer for Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, the Cult,) on “Leviathan” and Dave Catching (QOTSA, Mondo Generator) on “Deep Black Vanishing Train”. “Deep Black Vanishing Train” is an acoustic song that sounds very similar to a lot of Lanegan’s previous solo efforts. “Leviathan”, while slow and haunting, (especially with Goss’ background vocals) manages to sprinkle an uplifting vibe somehow.
“Harborview Hospital” oddly sounds like a Brian Eno production. It’s almost like a U2 song for those that don’t like U2. The jam gives off an early 90’s feel, while not sounding dated.
In the end, Mark Lanegan’s “Blues Funeral” hardy feels like a funeral. It actually comes off as life affirming. The master of melancholy manages to wear that badge while inexplicably coming off as slightly hopeful. As good as the songs are, the real highlight of “Blues Funeral” is simply getting mesmerized by Lanegan’s amazing voice. All funerals should be this good.
Mark Lanegan – “Riot in My House” (f. Josh Homme on guitar)
Mark Lanegan – “Ode to Sad Disco”
Mark Lanegan – “Where Did You Sleep last Night” (f. Kurt Cobain on guitar)
The 411: The 411: Mark Lanegan takes the listener into the depths of sadness, melancholy and introspection on his latest effort, “Blues Funeral”. With the help of some amazing studio wizards, the album comes off as both fresh and ancient while letting Lanegan’s amazing vocals take center stage. Mark Lanegan is simply an American musical treasure. “Blues Funeral” demands the listener to open up that chest and reap those riches.