Mark Lanegan Imitations

Mark LaneganImitations
As bands from Seattle's early '90s glory days trudge on, the Screaming Trees are noticeably absent. That's because, after 15 years of brilliant work (often surprisingly so) on his own and with a legion of collaborators, it's impossible to conceive of singer Mark Lanegan going back to doing something as pedestrian as "grunge." That's especially true after hearing Imitations, a covers album similarly patterned after his oft-overlooked 1999 gem, I'll Take Care of You. While both records share most of the same players (notably guitarist Mike Johnson, whom Lanegan hasn't worked with in over a decade), Imitations finds Lanegan assuming a new role — that of '60s crooner with an orchestra. Then again, from the fully mature tone of Lanegan's unmistakable voice, it soon makes perfect sense that he decided to breathe new life into MOR warhorses such as "Mack the Knife," "Autumn Leaves," and the Gosdin Brothers barroom weeper "She's Gone." If Jim Morrison could have somehow survived, he likely would have attempted something similar. Lanegan's edge is his keen ear for contemporary material that suits the overall mood. Nick Cave's "Brompton Oratory" and John Cale's "I'm Not The Loving Kind" seamlessly blend in, as does opening track "Flatlands," by relative newcomer Chelsea Wolfe. Far less capable singers have made careers out of interpreting other people's material, and while that surely isn't Lanegan's goal, it would be a shame if he didn't make records like Imitations more frequently. Whatever he chooses to sing invariably takes on a deeper meaning. (Vagrant)