Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, "Hawk" (Vanguard) Rating: 3/4
Three albums into their mirror-universe take on the classic ’60s country-pop collaborations between Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood—here, Belle and Sebastian ork-pop veteran Isobel Campbell is the songwriter, producer, and Svengali and former Screaming Tress and Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Mark Lanegan is the gruff-voiced boy toy that she lovingly employs—there are hints that the unlikely beauty and the beast duo is running out of inspiration.
A new duet partner, the unremarkable emo-folkie Willy Mason, pops up on a few songs; Campbell handles some others in solo mode, and an uncharacteristic instrumental and covers by Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt (two of ’em!) help fill out the 13 tracks.
Yet if this is the lesser installment in their joint discography, “Hawk” still has some stellar moments, and it’s hardly a shameful way to cap the trilogy. “Come Undone” is a lovely, gently swaying pop gem that cheekily nods to James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (Ha! Campbell’s is anything but); “Time of the Season” is a very Belle and Sebastian-like sinister Christmas tune; “Get Behind Me” breaks out of the polite mode that dominates most of these albums with a burst of garage-rock chaos, and “Lately” closes the disc in uplifting gospel mode.