Whether with Screaming Trees or the various projects that followed, Mark Lanegan made his name singing the gloomiest of songs, plumbing the kind of emotional depths that only a grizzle-voiced former heroin addict could. Those days are long behind Lanegan, but that darkness still resides within him today – something clearly evident on both 2012’s sublimely stark Blues Funeral and his collaboration, earlier this year, with Duke Garwood. Why the hell, then, is he releasing a collection of crooner cover versions?
If that sounds totally incongruous, when you hear him croaking out Mack The Knife like somebody’s drunk grandfather, or his gravelled takes on Pretty Colors and You Only Live Twice, it starts making sense. Autumn Leaves is particularly mournful and despondent, but even when he (not entirely convincingly) takes on the French language with Elégie Funèbre, it’s possible to hear the empty ache – or at least the memory of it – from deep inside. Covers of songs by Nick Cave, Chelsea Wolfe and Lanegan’s Gutter Twins bandmate, Greg Dulli, bring this collection slightly more up to date, but nothing sounds out of place. Rather, in Lanegan’s hands, they coalesce to form a record of timeless, typically morose joy.