13 for ’13: Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – Mescalito

Part 8 of a 13 song recap of my 2013 in no particular order

You could say this was a busy year for Mark Lanegan, but then you’d have to ask yourself what you’re comparing it to. When was the last time Lanegan didn’t have a busy year? Ever since he hooked up with Queens of the Stone Age way back on Rated R he’s been working a fevered rate. Since then we’ve had his work with the likes of Soulsavers, Creature with the Atom Brain and Isobel Campbell, to name just a few, as well as an impressive number of one shot guest appearances. We’ve even occasionally been treated to the odd solo album, something I’m keeping my fingers crossed for in 2014. Though technically we did have have one of those in 2013, the relaxed and assured collection of covers Imitations, which played out like An Evening with Mark Lanegan and worked a hell of a lot better than a battle hardened old grunge veteran covering the classics really should. Apart from that we got a typically beautiful and melancholic single with Moby for record store day (The Lonely Night) and this, a collaborative album with Duke Garwood. There’s an argument to be made that, by his standards, Lanegan was actually taking it easy in 2013.

 Black Pudding, the album he made with Duke Garwood is, for me, is the least interesting of his 2013 works. It’s far from a bad record, however Duke doesn’t really add a great deal to Lanegans sound. Bar the odd curveball it sounds like a throwback to the more spectral Americana of his earlier albums without quite hitting the heights (or indeed lows) of the likes of Scraps at Midnight or Whiskey for the Holy Ghost. But there are a few stand out tracks, chief amongst them the brilliant Mescalito.

It took a chance listen on good headphones in a silent train station waiting room for Duke’s work on this to really sink in*. Those ghostly rattling guitar chimes work against that rolling acoustic guitar groove to make the perfect eerie companion for Lanegan’s trademark rumbling baritone. It sounds world weary (by now Lanegan’s grizzled visage should be in every dictionary under that phrase) and a little menacing, like the drunk at the end of the bar who could turn at any time. It’s a sound and a role that Lanegan has made his own for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Mescalito may not quite be the best example of this in an exceptional career, but it doesn’t need to scale those heights to be amongst the best tracks for a given calender year. He’s the old gunslinger who can put a bullet in any kid in town in his sleep. Lanegan may have been taking it easy in 2013 but he can still pull out something special every now and then without having to fully wake up.

*I’ve been meaning to revisit the whole record since then but haven’t got around to it. There’s a chance I might be reconsidering that second paragraph soon.

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