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Published: 2012/04/11
by Ron Hart

Mark Lanegan
Blues Funeral

4AD

Given his ubiquitous presence throughout the last half-decade in collaboration with the likes of Greg Dulli, PJ Harvey, Isobel Campbell, Queens of the Stone Age and Soulsavers, not to mention a pair of career-spanning retrospectives chronicling his old group the Screaming Trees, its hard to believe seven years has passed since the last proper album from Mark Lanegan.

But at long last, the brooding icon of alternative rock finally follows up 2004’s Bubblegum with the excellent Blues Funeral, a record so good we can forgive the tardy time lapse. Working alongside acclaimed producer and multi-tasking instrumentalist Alain Johannes in addition to appearances from the likes of fellow Gutter Twin Dulli, Josh Homme and former Red Hot Chili Peppers/Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons, Lanegan incorporates a multitude of different sonic hues outside of his own particular box to expand the boundaries of the dozen songs he presents here. Most notable of the new textures on hand in the course of Blues Funeral is the current of electronic grooves that course through tracks like “Harborview Hospital” and “Ode to Sad Disco”. Meanwhile, “Quiver Syndrome” smacks of obscure early-70s proto-glam, while “Deep Black Vanishing Train” finds the singer tapping into his inner Various Positions era Leonard Cohen.

Yes, the blues advertised in the album’s title does turn up here on a number of cuts, the brooding “Bleeding Muddy Water” and the Son House-evoking “St. Louis Elegy”. But it’s the times when Lanegan goes beyond the realm of his own character that puts Blues Funeral right up there with his 1994 solo classic Whiskey for the Holy Ghost and the Screaming Trees’ 1996 swan song Dust as one of the very best in his three decade strong catalog.

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