The third collaborative full-length between former Belle And Sebastian vocalist/cellist Isobel Campbell and former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan (those are by no means the duo’s only points of contribution), Hawk is a dreamy and sometimes moody collection of blissful pop, classically structured and impeccably arranged. Without being a stylistic throwback, it reminds of a time when pop appeal meant more than just whose cell phones or sedans your songs were being used to sell.
Townes Van Zandt and Willy Mason also show up, and Lanegan has the lead on a few tracks (he and Campbell try gloriously to out-sultry each other on the darker “You Won’t Let Me Down Again,” which is a win for everyone, and he’s backed by a chorus on closer “Lately”), but true to the album’s stylish but not overdone cover art, it’s Campbell in the driver’s seat for most of Hawk. Her arrangements can wander—the oldies/sub-rockabilly of “Get Behind Me” is almost a full two minutes longer than anything to which it’s paying homage—but by and large her songwriting is as accomplished as fans of her work would expect. Hawk finds a few apex moments in the folkish “No Place To Fall,” the unashamed Americana of “Eyes Of Green” and the Western drama of “Snake Song.”
A number of expertly-enacted feels come across, from the ominous minimalism of opener “We Die And See Beauty Reign” to the testified ending of “Lately,” but as a unit, Isobel Campbell And Mark Lanegan are able to pull off what best suits the songs while at the same time each maintaining individual sonic personalities that, when they come together as on the soulful “Come Undone,” are the stuff of a truly special listening experience.