Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan Ballad of the Broken Seas

The pairing of the former Belle & Sebastian vocalist with the tortured Lanegan seems unlikely on the surface, but after establishing a friendship at a Queens of the Stone Age gig in Campbell’s hometown of Glasgow, they have worked diligently, sending tracks back and forth online between her home and Lanegan’s current whereabouts in L.A. Their efforts have proved to be astounding, building upon the dark folk and blues that has been the hallmark of Lanegan’s solo career, as opposed to the bittersweet pop of B&S. However, that influence does appear subtly through Campbell’s clever production nods to the classic Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood duets, especially on "The False Husband,” an unabashed update of "Some Velvet Morning.” Elsewhere, Lanegan’s patented weariness is beautifully mixed with orchestration on the title track, and Morricone guitars on a cover of Hank Williams’ "Ramblin’ Man.” In fact, aside from a few excursions into the California sun ("Honey Child What Can I Do”), a sense of desperation permeates every track, a further credit to Campbell’s talents since she wrote much of the material with Lanegan’s voice in mind. But the real testament to this album’s greatness is that it immediately ranks among the best work that both artists have produced so far in their respective careers. (V2)