One Dynamic Duo
Mark Lanegan is one prolific guy. The 48-year old musician boasts an impressive resume, having been involved in a slew of bands and collaborations (with the likes of Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, The Gutter Twins and Isobel Campbell, to name a few) and released several albums of solo work. Black Pudding is Lanegan’s latest collaboration with the English guitarist Duke Garwood, who made appearances on Lanegan’s 2012 album Blues Funeral. As one might guess, the duo make for a pretty good team.
Black Pudding starts off with its title track, a solemn classical tune with Spanish-style finger-picked guitars rumbling with deep, rich tones and trilling tremolos. The song both sets the mood, cluing you in to the blues/Western feel that permeates the rest of the album, and gives Lanegan and Garwood a chance to show off their performance skills. “Black Pudding” is a study in the mastery of dynamics, with subtle swellings in volume and tempo, guitar melodies building up and then subsiding back into silence.
Much of the album features this same sparse production style, which contributes to the dark, muddled sound throughout. Lanegan’s scratchy baritone is perfect for the low-down blues of “Pentecostal,” where the duo’s guitars weave in counter melodies and harmonies of shivering blue notes, creating a rich, full sound with only their two instruments and some light shaker percussion. The vaguely morbid “Death Ride” follows in this same vein, with its rolling guitars, supple bassy vocals, and Western tumbleweed feel. These songs (as well as “Mescalito,” the brooding “Last Rung” and the deliciously funky “Cold Molly”) sound like Lanegan and Garwood are just jamming together and loving it, riffing off each other and improvising away. It doesn’t feel like much of a stretch to imagine them sitting together on a porch in some dark southern swamp in the evening, in low, flickering light.
While Black Pudding mainly features guitar-focused songs, there are also a few more experimental tracks. “Sphinx” takes liberties with rhythm and tempo, and “Thank You” sounds distinctly like an orchestra tuning up for a performance, with pulsing vibrato strings, high tinkling keys, and Lanegan’s bluesy bayou vocals.
Black Pudding steps away from the world of straightforward rock music and delves into a blend of the blues and classical guitar, a combination at once refreshing and enticing. It may ultimately be a one-off, single, concerted collaborative effort from Lanegan and Garwood. But it sounds like they’re enjoying themselves so much that maybe we can hope they’ll work together again.