Reviews for Field Songs
Jesus if this bastard doesn't have the ability to just
make you weep. All the folks who dig dark balladeering from guys like
Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave will want to check this album
From Stinkweeds Online
Mark Lanegan: few singers make darkness so much like velvet, so appealing, so tempting. Lanegan--vocalist for the under-appreciated Screaming Trees, of course--rises to new heights on Field Songs, his fifth solo effort. Treading into territory only previously traversed by bona-fide artistes like Nick Cave and Tim Buckley, Lanegan's remarkable voice spins "Field Songs" into tide pools of confessional introspection that bring on moments of chillingly lucid beauty; what one song calls "this clear blue silence/up to the Heavens that you daydream". That track,"³Resurrection Song", and several others, notably "Kimiko's Dream House", written with the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce (Gun Club) are like salving a sharp hangover by staring into a clear, swift running river. Those who have been following Lanegan's career since his Trees days know the power of his voice well---it's a deeply resonant instrument, helped along to its' present husky power by years of substance abuse, no doubt. (An friend walking into the room while I was listening to "Field Songs" thought at first that it was Tom Jones singing, which is off the mark, but a clear testimony to the muscular tone Lanegan's singing is overflowing with.) Like all of his solo outings, "Field Songs" finds Lanegan taking a foundation of wounded folk blues and building it up until it is a strange statue in the woods, alone and, come upon unexpectedly, mesmering and haunting . Longtime collaborator Mike Johnson (known for his work in Dinosaur Jr.) mixes tone colors with guitars that swim in out of the mix like a misty Northwestern rain and former Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd's understated flow with his instrument adds much to the gray chromatic scheme. "Nothing to talk about/as another summer dies", Lanegan sings in "She Done Too Much", which closes with "and not a thing in this world to do/except be alone in it". Lanegan's solo career has not produced anything as good as "Field Songs"---a record that makes being alone and reveling in a wide, dark and haunted world fabulously rewarding. -Patrick
Mark Lanegan is best known for his years as the vocalist
for the Screaming Trees. However he's also been building a following
for the last 10 years with solo albums that highlight his love of American
folk and blues. 'Field Songs', his fifth album, continues in that vein
with a collection of mournful, keening songs of love and loss.
Daliy Californian: BERKELEY, Calif.
Although Mark Lanegan seems to be best known as the hirsute
former frontman for the now-defunct Screaming Trees, his solo efforts
have been perhaps more impressive than his work with the Seattle blues
rockers. His most recent solo release, Field Songs,sports a sound as
lithe and stripped down as Lanegan's current 'do. Enlisting the help
of buddies like Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr. fame and Soundgardener
Ben Shepherd, Lanegan has crafted an album of tightly controlled intensity
and acute insight.
Knowing Lanegan only from his former days as frontman for the Screaming Trees, I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by this disc: the finger-picked acoustic guitar is a pleasent blend of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, though he is not afraid to bust out a full electric band, complete with strings on some of the heavier numbers.
As a solo artist, former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has traded dimly lit nightclubs for the gravelly back roads of rural Americana, combing the landscape for a new folk music to call his own. If "Field Songs" is any indication, he's nearly found it. The song "No Easy Action" opens up Lanegan's usually constrained atmospherics with Middle Eastern wails, evoking simmering menace. Short numbers like "Field Song," "Low" and "She Done Too Much" are jagged briars dipped in the same country, folk and blues influences that informed his covers disc from 2000, "I'll Take Care of You." Lanegan has fine-tuned his bourbon-and-cigarettes rasp into a spectral baritone capable of powerful emotional deliverance. He needs only to let the whisper build to a scream to fully realize the haunting potential of his material. --Kevin Forest Moreau
From Time Off
The fifth solo album from the former Screaming Trees frontman
(counting his covers album I’ll Take Care Of You), Field Songs finds
Mark Lanegan further exploring his roots interests with longtime collaborator
Mike Johnson (Dinosaur Jr.).
From Net Rhythms
Former frontman of Seattle's Screaming Trees and currently to be found providing a helping live hand with Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan's latest solo outing is more likely to see him lined up along the likes of Cohen, Cave. Mark Eitzel and The Walkabouts with its contemplative, melancholic, dark American Gothic moods. His is a deep dark mournful voice riding a ghost horse through a sun-baked dust desert full of songs of damnation, loss and redemption, imbuing them with a sense of aching beauty. The haunting One Way Street instantly sets the quality level, the atmospheric instrumental Blues For D with its delicate guitar work tracery underlines his ability on the six strings while the title track wouldn't sound out of place on Cave's Murder Ballads, it and the superlative Pill Hill Serenade likely to rank among the finest of the year.
Time can only tell for sure, but it's pretty safe to assume
that the break-up of the Screaming Trees was the best thing to happen
to both Mark Lanegan and music fans. Don't get me wrong: I loved the
Trees' brand of melodic hard rock. The fact that Sweet Oblivion, the
Trees' flawless 1992 record, wasn't a quadruple platinum victor from
the great Seattle record label race remains an injustice.
Dublin Event Guide
His voice rugged with worry and whiskey, Mark Lanegan is nothing if not convincing. The fifth solo album from 'the vocalist with The Screaming Trees' (as, unfortunately, he seems forever destined to be known), Field songs is the authentic sound of desolation, Americana-style. Not quite country, and certainly not folk, blues, soul or rock, though containing elements of each, these twelve songs are drastic, dramatic evocations of dreams gone sour and the disappointment of hard knocks become everyday reality. Not only does Lanegan possess an arrestingly lived-in singing voice, he also has the ability to write compelling lyrical narratives and songs that transcend narrow generic boundaries. Neither stunningly original not tediously derivative, but possessed of a superior presonal grace, his music occupies a space that is at once familiar and unsettling. Take 'Kimiko's Dream House', for example. Co-written with Jeffrey Lee pierce, on one level it is a standard-issue countrified waltz, on another, a twisting, beautifully lugubrious personal lament demanding to be heard repeatedly. Similarly for almost every other Field Song here. Together with regular collaborators Mike Johnson (Dinosaur Jr.) and ben Shepherd (Soundgarden), along with a host of guests, Lanegan has shaped an album that seems conventional at first but which reveals more on each listen. A pleasingly subtle production that toys with convention before discarding it in favour of the primacy of the songs themselves, Field Songs is enticing, mesmeric nd starkly alluring. Will this be the album to transport him from the arid plains of critical acclaim and commercial ignominy? Let's hope so. - Lee Casey
"Have you ever been skeleton low?" asks Mark Lanegan on this, his fifth solo album, and one which leaves you in little doubt that he himself certainly has. Fifteen years fronting Seattle grunge crew Screaming Trees left Lanegan with a struggle against booze and drug addiction and, more happily, one of the most enviable voices in modern rock music, a warm, husky baritone marinated in whiskey and toasted to temporary perfection by three packs of unfiltered a day. Blending the weary resignation of Mark Eitzel with the honeyed languor of Tim Buckley, it enabled him to contribute the standout track ("Café") to last year's Buckley tribute Sing a Song for You, and now lends a resonant authenticity to these Field Songs. Lanegan's solo style hovers around the confessional end of rootsy alt.rock, shading over into something akin to the third Velvet Underground album on "Kimiko's Dream House". But whether he's bringing a menacing maturity to the low-key Tex-Mex flavour of "Don't Forget Me", surfing the swirling mellotron strings of "No Easy Action", or inscribing his testimony over the patina of eerie creakings and scrapings in "One Way Street", there's always a sense that he's trying desperately to shake off the hellhound on his trail that although "The stars and the moon are where they're supposed to be", Lanegan's still mesmerised, trapped by "a psychotropic light", be it love or addiction. Highly recommended.
With 1999's cover version collection 'I'll Take Care Of You', Mark Lanegan dug out the roots of his blue and battered music. Field Songs clearly shows that rich, loamy heritage feeding into his solo work - these 12 songs slowly shift through the rustic doo-wop of Pill Hill Serenade, the snake-milking Bible-tent preaching of Don't Forget Me and the country distortions of One Way Street. It's not just Lanegan's voice, narrating his sad and sinister tales with subterranean gravitas, that's deep: Field Songs is profound in wisdom and emotion.
Mark Lanegan is what the late Bill Hicks would've called
a "six-lighters-a-day man," sounding not only like he smokes cigarettes
by the truckload, but eats the ashtrays too. When coupled with the heavy
psychedelia of his former band the Screaming Trees, his ocean-deep,
molasses-thick baritone resulted in sonic assaults of seismic proportions.
With the Screaming Trees finally put to rest, two promising ventures may bear fruit with increasing regularity: drummer Barrett Martin's Tuatara project, and Mark Lanegan's elegant and haunting solo work. Following 1999's magnificent all-covers "I'll take care of You", "Field Songs" is an impecable collection of performances that overshadow the unfortunately average songwriting. Lanegan's vocal presence is so towering that he could probably get away with singing the grunge songbook unplugged, and occasionally here he doesn't have to (No Easy Action and Resurrection Song). But charisma alone doesn't carry an entire album. Michael Barclay
The Perfect Vision
Former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has assembled
quite a streak – four successive albums that aren’t just good, but great.
With a whiskey-soaked, nicotine-stained, low-register voice that’s capable
of both haunting and mourning, he’s one of a few active artists who
sing folk and blues music convincingly. Many claim to perform folk music,
but rarely do they fully inhabit the strange worlds and twisted minds
of the characters about which they sing. Lanegan does, and the music
magically comes alive. His previous record, I’ll Take Care of You, an
album of interpretations, won The Absolute Sound’s Golden Ear Award
for sonic and musical excellence. Lanegan’s newest solo effort, the
aptly titled Field Songs, is the fifth chapter in a continuing line
of mysterious works that bind Old West barroom piano shuffles, droning
acoustic blues sketches, ghostly folk tales, and salvation hymns. Though
his 1990 debut had power and crunch, Lanegan has since traveled a slower,
tranquil route. Selections like "Kimiko’s Dream House" and "One Way
Street" transport listeners to time-neglected lands, while "Pill Hill
Serenade" and "Resurrection Song" bring personalized testaments of heartache
and despondency to our neighborhood’s front porch. Like the otherworldly
folk and American-roots-music greats before him (Dock Boggs, Uncle Dave
Macon), Lanegan is at once a torch singer, blues rattler, and preacher.
His vocal delivery and co-authored lyrics have a sanctified, no-bullshit
sensibility that gives complete credibility to the music, and the artists
themselves. All five of Lanegan’s recordings transcend any need of marketing
or artificial hype. The songs simply exist, and function as a breathing
organism that’s firmly anchored by Lanegan’s smoky vocals wafting across
simple, carefully considered musical arrangements of mostly acoustic
guitar, bass, accented electric guitar, and lightly brushed percussion.
It’s an honest, undisguised approach that most wouldn’t dare attempt.
To appreciate Lanegan’s natural disposition and songwriting, I think
back to an Eighties-era Bob Dylan, when, having momentarily lost his
confidence in the decade, flanked himself with gospel singers who drowned
out and masked his shortfalls. Later, Dylan did admit to this – the
decision remains one of his worst; the downside of being a natural is
that when your abilities fail you, there’s no place to run and hide.
Lanegan’s directness is from the same cloth – naked and scarred, pure
and evocative, his voice is there for the taking. If it’s a great singer
and song interpreter you want to hear, look no further. The album has
inconsistent sonics in that some songs are more detailed, and livelier
sounding than others. Overall, the production is average, though I’ll
Take Care Of You doesn’t have these song-to-song differences. On a two
of Field Songs’ tracks, even the vocals are foggy – a big no-no. Lanegan’s
third record, Scraps at Midnight (review, The Absolute Sound, Issue
116), remains the best sonic choice, with wonderful balance and forward
presentation. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it again here – Lanegan
would be my first choice to see in an intimate venue. And I’m happy
to report, that for the first time ever, he will mount a short tour
this summer. Travel if you must, but don’t miss him.
When I was in college, it was a virtual certainty that two CDs would be a part of every collection you happened to peruse. The first was Steve Miller's Greatest Hits. The second was the soundtrack to the pre-Jerry McGuire, post-Say Anything Cameron Crowe film “Singles.” One of the highlights on the Singles soundtrack was the Screaming Trees' “I Nearly Lost You.” The Screaming Trees are gone, but lead singer Mark Lanegan is out on his own. After a series of critically acclaimed solo efforts, his latest CD, “Field Songs,” is something very special as well. Field Songs is mellow and mid-to-slow tempo from start to finish, while Lanegan explores various musical styles and demonstrates his vocal prowess on levels that take him from alternately sounding like Johnny Cash, Chris Isaak, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and even Robert Plant. While nonetheless remaining distinctly Mark Lanegan, that ain't bad company to keep. “One Way Street” is the somber, Mariachi opener on Field Songs. Lanegan's voice, tinted by Marlboros and a bottle of Jack, croons gently over a modest guitar and piano melody that could just as easily be found on a Buena Vista Social Club CD. The faint groans and wheezes of guitar feedback provide an atmospheric backdrop. “No Easy Action” is about as close to rocking as Lanegan gets on Field Songs, and he doesn't waste any time making it memorable. The Arabic-flavored instrumentation and backing vocals swirl and twist effortlessly under Lanegan's gravelly voice before slowly winding down to a slow, drugged-out stomp. “Pill Street Seranade” finds Lanegan softly raising his voice an octave with a tune similar to the King on “Love me Tender,” with a Hammond organ providing the sweet melody. Led Zeppelin would be proud to have recorded “Resurrection Song” as a companion piece to the “Battle of Evermore” or “The Rain Song,” while the mid-tempo shuffle of “Don't' Forget Me” and “Field Song” seems perfectly destined to end up on a Tarantino soundtrack. The list of players on Field Songs reads like the roster of a Seattle halfway house for rock stars. Lanegan, now sober after a few bouts with a few chemicals, is joined on the majority of the CD by former Dinosaur Jr. guitarist Mike Johnson and former Soundgarden and March of Crimes bassist Ben Shephard. Other familiar faces from the Seattle music scene pop up here and there. Even former Guns and Roses bassist Duff McKagan makes a brief appearance, playing the drums on the CD's final track, “Fix.” Lanegan has no pretensions about making you happy with Field Songs. As one of the survivors of the grunge era, he's still got some angst in him. Fortunately, with a voice that simply bores into you and won't let go, along with his willingness and talent to dabble in various forms of music, Lanegan shows that while grunge may be dead, he's doing quite well, thank you very much. It's tough to call Field Songs a rock CD… and it's not really folk… or country or anything else. What it is, though, is extremely good music. SubPop Records released Field Songs in May. If SubPop rings a bell, it's probably because they were original label for both Nirvana and Soundgarden, and they continue to hold a full stable of artists.
That Which Didn't Sink
The ex-Screaming Trees singer's fifth solo album dips further into the subdued, bluesy territory he has mined since his band's demise. "No Easy Action," a surging rumble of mellotron and keening melisma, is the only true rocker -- otherwise, Lanegan croons world-weary laments over simple lines of acoustic guitar and piano, typified by "Pill Hill Serenade," "Kimiko's Dream House" (co-written with the Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce) and the haunting "One Way Street." InsiderOne Mark Lanegan, Field Songs (Sub Pop) With the warm breeze caressing your temple, you float high across a summer's night sky dotted by the galaxies and their reflections. You stream peacefully through the soft mix of oxygen, condensation and darkness. Detached but inquisitive, you watch from above as the world's story passes by as if in slow motion. Feeling your separation from it, you simultaneously smile and cry. You have no desire to return. And, with this, you feel strangely at ease — and at peace. Listening to the intensely dreamlike Field Songs feels much the same. Like an opportunity to escape life's trivial qualities and see them from a place where they've lost meaning (Ha!). Like a magic carpet, the album whisks the listener to a carefree land far, far away, where your emotions are centered and understood. Former Screaming Trees frontman Lanegan's singing is evocative and moving. The music is intricate and exotic, delicate and soothing. The inventive arrangements keep the sound fresh from song to song. "No Easy Action" is made ghostly with the beautiful Indian-influenced cries of a woman layered in the background. The lullaby "Pill Hill Serenade" soothes with a music box-like melody and whistling organ. With dueling acoustic guitars and a heart-wrenching solo, "Low" is dark and repentant: "Too dark for finding my ground/ Now trees shiver and sway/ Have you ever seen something go down?/ To keep in mind all of your days/ Tell her I want to say goodbye/ For I was dead and gone/ Tell her I didn't want to lie/ Left you well enough alone." This dark, glum-folk collection feels like the most alluring opportunity for escape, like it's carving out a black hole in the wall of reality and inviting you through, — Jenny Tatone
The former Screaming Trees vocalist really shows where
his heart lies on this one. Wielding 12 tracks that echo the best of
American folk and rock, Lanegan weaves beautiful acoustic webs that
evoke images of sleeping under the stars with the campfire dying at
your feet. Lanegan's latest material is well thought out and tracks
like "No Easy Action" and "Don't Forget Me" mix his gravelly voice with
tasteful, delicate accompaniment that may be quiet, but is never boring.
Lanegan has enlisted a massive amount of guests - most namely Duff McKagen
and former Soundgarden rumbler Ben Shepherd that aid him in creating
a most enjoyable and varied release that's solid from start to finish.
The former lead singer of the Screaming Trees returns on this, his fifth solo release overall, with a set that blows all his previous work away. This time, Lanegan's main partner in crime is former Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd, giving the release a sort of "Return of the Grunge Masters" air. Fortunately, that doesn't get reflected in the songs, and Shepherd doesn't take the mic much — as he has in Hater and on one track of Soundgarden's "Superunknown," both of which I'll pass on every chance I get. The songs are dark, moody, and dare I say Leonard Cohen-esque, which is always a good thing in my estimation. The voice is what does it. Mark Arm recently made the comment that he'd go so far as to have a team of surgeons hold down Lanegan just so they could try a throat transplant, of which Arm would be the beneficiary. That's a bold statement in and of itself, as Lanegan could easily wake the dead or woo the ladies with his gritty, spooky crooning. All in all, the release is an amazing growth turn for Lanegan, as the songwriting, lyrics, and melodies are awe-inspiring. The only complaint I might have is acutally a bit of a tip of the hat: the album has some of the best chances for misheard lyrics of any I've heard. And isn't always the great artists who are misunderstood ("Excuse me while I kiss this guy," anyone?). On the opening track, "One Way Street," I could swear Lanegan was saying "Can't get a dog without crying" — he's really saying "Can't get it down without crying," apparently. Does it detract from the power of this collection? Not even close. This release is just the latest in a trend of similar artists leaving their old sounds for a more subdued, darker tinge — except Lanegan's been doing it all along. This time, it's clear he'll only get better. - Rob Devlin
Fifth solo album from Ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan and he just keeps geting better. Dark and smoky, evocative and atmospheric. Slow, whiskey soaked ballads with a country tinge. With a beautifully dreamy and washed out (but still crystal clear) production, melancholy and so beautiful. With a handful of guests: Mike johnson (longtime Lanegan collaborator), Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden), Brett Netson (Built To Spill), and Duff McKagan (Guns and Roses!?).
Usually when a singer goes off to do a solo project, it's either because of "creative differences" or a "need to express myself away from the band." In both cases, this can be translated as "I'm sick and tired of sharing credit with these bozos -- I'm the real creative force in this band." All too often, the result is a less-distinctive version of the band's albums made with studio hacks or a big-name producer (say, Don Was or Mitchell Froom). Mark Lanegan is different. His two solo albums were miles away from the Screaming Trees, revealing a sparse, thoughtful singer-songwriter underneath the angsty, Zeppelinesque screeds of his former band. The title of his new album, Field Songs, would lead you to believe that it will be even sparser than The Winding Sheet or Whiskey for the Holy Ghost. Surprisingly, it's the lushest sounding of the three. Which is not to say it's overproduced. At the center of each of the songs are Lanegan's rough-hewn compositions and his tundra-cool voice. The arrangements -- a well-placed treated guitar here, a tumbleweed mellotron there -- sonically echo the beautiful losers about whom Lanegan sings, displaced loners who know the "stars and skies are where they're supposed to be" but find themselves going the wrong way on a one-way street. He's at his best on hushed, quiescent ballads like "Kimiko's Dream House" or flinty atmospherics such as "Resurrection Song" or "Miracles." Field Songs has the worked-in comfort of an old pair of Levi's. Best listened to as the sun goes down with the first beer of the night cooling your hand, its creased, leathery charms feel earned.
From Q Magazine
Welcome return for the gravelly singer-songwriter of Screaming Trees fame. Think: grunge generation Steve Earle. If Mark Lanegan possessed the poster-boy looks of Eddie Vedder rather than resembling a workmate of Roseanne's John Goodman, then his songs might have brought him more than just the respect of critics and a small if committed fanbase. Still best known for fronting Seattle's Screaming Trees, Lanegan may well be about to cast off the shadow of his old combo with Field Songs, an album which shimmers with creativity, conviction and depth. The contemplative One Way Street and Blues For D are among the finest Lanegan has ever written, but Field Songs' true resonance comes in a vocal performance thick with gravelly conviction. Much like Steve Earle or even Leonard Cohen, he has the talent to transform life's disappointments and regrets into a work of real wonder and beauty. Rating **** Reviewed by Ian Winwood
From The Irish Times: (4 stars out of 5)
Life is no bowl of cherries for Mr Lanegan. Field Songs
chronicles another miserable year in the life of the former Screaming
Trees frontman. And if pain pays, then Mark Lanegan is due a large cheque
because this collection - his fifth solo album - finds him chewing over
the bum hand life has dealt him. His big, regret-filled smoky voice,
which is erdolent of another moaner - Chris Rea - serves him well in
this mission, swanning over the folk/bluesy melodies and generally conveying
a mood of bitter resignation. His is aided and abetted by a fine band
and a production which sets just the right tone. And the songs are pretty
good too, not least the opening One Way Street, the beautiful Kimiko's
Dream and really any of the other remaining tracks, including the instrumental
Blues For D.
From Independent Mind
Mark Lanegan - Field Songs
From kexp FM
Mark Lanegan - Field Songs (Sub Pop)
In 1997, nearly every critic in the country lauded Smithsonian/Folkways'
re-release of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. Originally
released in 1952, the three-volume set-- a fourth volume was added in
2000-- provides an awesome, sweeping perspective of the foundation of
American music. Then, in 1999, came Moby's Play, which sampled Alan
Lomax-era field blues; by 2000, the word "ubiquity" had become an understatement.
From Mojo Magazine, 6/01
From The Sunday Times, 6/01
From NME, 6/01
Mark Lanegan, Field Songs
From The Times, 6/01
Unhappy trails BY DAVID SINCLAIR
From Toast, 5/01 (www.toastmag.com)
With an all-star cast of backing musicians,
Mark Lanegan delivers his finest since Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, showing
once again that he's not afraid to step sideways from the mainstream,
or back in time, to draw on folk and blues traditions. From the slow
waltz "Pill Hill Serenade" and the contemplative softness of "Kimiko's
Dream House," penned with the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce, to the tortuous
obsession of "Fix," Lanegan's voice ranges from tenderness to gritty
power. Ben Shepherd's instrumental "Blues for D" conjures moonlight
and solitude, the edge of dreaming, the flutter of moths. Metallic guitar
shivers rise up behind cleanly produced vocals and acoustic guitars,
like the noise inside a pained mind, setting a tone of lonely weariness,
of circumstantial traps and regrettable choices. Spiritual references
and poetic line breaks give layered meanings, and we always find a way
to go on, down an endless street or on a departing train. These are
songs by and for survivors, delivered with clarity and intimacy.
From The Stranger, 5/01
The emotional centerpiece of Mark Lanegan's Field Songs
is "Low," a folk song played on acoustic guitar, overlaid with bluesy
interludes and a sad Hammond organ. "Blood is all there is," Lanegan
sings, his voice whiskeyed, pained, and almost preternaturally masculine.
"Lord, you know where I've been." For all its lyricism, the song is
uncannily deadpan: "Tell her I wanted to say good-bye before the light
was dead and gone. Tell her I didn't want to lie."
From Billboard, 5/01
Coming from an artist known for crafting visceral rock'n'roll
with the late Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan's fifth solo album, "Field
Songs," takes a while to sink in. Even some of the warm immediacy of
his early solo work has been lost. But this is a humbler style of music,
best exemplified halfway through by "Kimiko's Dream House" (co-written
with Jeffrey Lee Pierce), and the almost religious psalm "Resurrection
From CMJ, 5/01
Mark Lanegan's voice is a blues instrument. It doesn't matter if he's alone with an acoustic guitar or searing through a scrim of feedback in the Screaming Tress, what you feel from his whiskey-and-smokes croon is the blues. So when he's intoning miseries in your ear with his solo work, the effect is devastating, compelling, and sexy. As with Lanegan's previous discs, Mike Johnson (ex-Dinosaur Jr.) supplies most of the music on Field Songs, this time with a little help from the last of Soundgarden's bass players, Ben Sheppard. Acoustic guitar anchors the simple and pretty sound, with strings, organ and piano pushing things along; occasional electronics whoosh in to emphasize the stillness. Lanegan prefers to keep the emotions bare, too, avoiding noirish cliches by focusing on rootless yearnings, resignations and regrets common to both sides of the tracks -- heartbreak as a universal truth. A highlight is "Kimiko's Dream House," written with the late Jeffery Lee Pierce of Gun Club fame. Lanegan brings an I've-been-there sensitivity to the song, wringing drama out of its gentle conversational tone. Lanegan isn't a mope, just bluesy in that elemental sense. And through it all, there's that voice, its tone like fine-grit sandpaper, making sure that bleak is beautiful.
From Wall of Sound:
I envy Mark Lanegan's voice. It's one of the few perfect things in a horribly imperfect world. If I thought I could get away with it, I might even kill for his voice. At the very least I'd have my minions strap him down to a gurney while my private surgeon performed a vocal transplant. No singer in recent memory has a voice that causes such dastardly thoughts to bounce around in my brain. Sadly, I have no minions, no surgeon, and no one has gotten such a transplant to take - yet.
No matter what the setting, Lanegan's voice sounds great. It sounds great in a heavy rock song. It sounds great with spare acoustic accompaniment. Hell, it would sound great echoing through Lenny Kravitz's colon. So, not surprisingly, it shines on Field Songs, his fifth solo album.
After weeks of deep listening, Field Songs has become my favorite Lanegan record. Most of the music has this very cool, loose, druggy feel. I'll chalk that up to cell memory, since Mark and several of the musicians who join him are now sober (but still unclean, thank God). Longtime cohort Mike Johnson (ex-Snakepit, Dinosaur Jr) and relative newcomer Ben Shepherd (ex-March of Crimes) do the bulk of the electric, acoustic, and bass guitar work and flesh out Mark's songs with stunning arrangements. Synth and backward guitar snake around dark acoustic guitars on "She Done Too Much" and "One Way Street." Engineer Martin Feveyear provides droning organ to a similar effect on "Low" and the killer instrumental "Blues for D."
Initially, a couple of the songs ("Pill Hill Serenade" and "Kimiko's Dream House") came across a bit sappy, a bit too obvious, but after these many listens, I like them better than any of my so-called friends. My one remaining complaint is that on many occasions, as soon as a song kicks in and the music really takes off, it fades. I would love to hear where he was going with it.
And then there's that voice. Have I mentioned it yet?
Every time I think about it, I start to cry.
Mark Arm plays rock and roll with Monkeywrench and Mudhoney. He recently turned to the lucrative field of music criticism to help pay for his trip to the International Space Station.
After coming into his own as a solo artist with 1994's wistfully sad and musically assured Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan's work has stagnated somewhat. Scraps at Midnight and the cover-song collection I'll Take Care Of You were both excellent efforts, but lacked the punch of Whiskey, when it sounded like a new voice was emerging from the ashes of an overlooked band's lamentable demise. This fifth solo effort, however, shows flashes of another growth spurt. Lanegan has never written anything as gentle and compositionally mature as "Kimiko's Dream House," for instance, nor has any of his records ever had this level of consistency, from bourbon-soaked blues to haunted, late-night roots rock. Furthermore, his band, featuring ex-Dinosaur Jr. member Mike Johnson on guitar and Ben Shepherd from the late, great Soundgarden on bass, has solidified, effortlessly veering between eerie soundscapes and somber evocations that form perfect backdrops for Lanegan's familiar smoky growl. Next time you feel like having a late-night chat with a friend named Jack Daniels, let this play in the background as a conversation starter, then draw your own conclusions about how affecting and perceptive Lanegan's work has become. --Matthew Cooke
Mark Lanegan Field Songs (Sub Pop)
Yeah, everybody hurts -- and just about everybody is happy to spill the beans about that pain. The trick, however, is doing so in a way that makes the listener care and relate -- rather than feel like a nursery school teacher dealing with the class crybaby. Former Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan has an uncanny ability to not only get under your skin, but burrow into your soul. Admittedly, he starts with a decided advantage -- a scarred, sepulchral baritone that's as suited to a mournful wail (as on the Middle Eastern-tinged "No Easy Action") as it is to a libidinous murmur (in full effect on "Miracle"). Lanegan favors compact, dread-laced tales that fit squarely into the traditions of hill-country blues and country -- Hank Sr. would surely nod along to "Pill Hill Serenade." Interestingly enough, he takes the opposite tack when it comes to couching those tales, luxuriating in a sweeping drama that -- particularly on the Iberian-flavored "One Way Street" and the desperately keening "Don't Forget Me" -- makes for an undertow that's impossible to escape. (DAVID SPRAGUE)
From Earpollution, May 2001
Mark Lanegan's life and music is chockful of many ghosts, but the one wedged in the opening cracks of "One Way Street" I know personally. Inside and near the bottom of the middle escalator that descends from the corner of West 181st Street and Fort Washington into the grimy depths of New York's subway system lives, or used to, a poltergeist whose dismayed screeching I thought I was the only one who heard, and whose caterwauling I thought had stolen the last remnants of my sanity. I first heard the voice one morning early last summer on my way down to catch the A train. I've had my share of pharmaceutical indulgences and I've had both auditory and visual hallucinations aplenty, but this sound, when first heard, seemed to emanate directly from the center of my skull as I slid past on the escalator. I panicked and stopped in a cold sweat, heart pounding, and looked around. Why had no one else heard that but me? This was, honestly, one of only two times in my life where I've stopped dead into my tracks, scared completely shitless, thinking, "I've really done it, I've really gone mad. Absolutely mad. This is it. Oh, fuck!"
Once the sound had fled my head and I'd located it as coming from somewhere inside the bottom portion of that middle escalator, the ghost didn't stay around very long...a few days perhaps. And so I'm not surprised then to find it almost a year later lingering like cigarette smoke in the first moments of "One Way Street," the leading song off of Lanegan's fifth solo release, Field Songs. When the sun dries up each night, Lanegan's adopted home of Los Angeles has always been a harbor for dark shadows, and Lanegan himself has always known how to take those inner turmoils and, with them, create hauntingly beautiful pieces that linger on long after the sound has passed.
Joined, as always, on guitar by his brother-in-arms Mike Johnson, with additional drum and bass duties courtesy Barrett Martin (who played with Lanegan in the Screaming Trees--R.I.P.) and Ben Shepherd, respectively, Field Songs is Lanegan's most fully realized release to date. Taking the transcendental shudder of Whiskey for the Holy Ghost with tracks like "One Way Street," the quiet serenade of Scraps at Midnight ("Pin Hill Serenade"), and the folk-tinged influences of I'll Take Care of You ("Don't Forget Me"), Field Songs creates a bittersweet elixir of naked honesty. Here we find the gentle roll of "Kimiko's Dream House," co-written by close friend Jeffrey Lee Pierce (Gun Club) who died in 1996 from persistent health problems before the two had the chance to record; the achingly sad "She Done Too Much" ("Got so sad today, she done too much / Although I had the same, she done too much / And it's a bad, bad feeling that you get when you get so alone"); and the album's closer, "Fix," a slow burning blues raga that, behind Lanegan's gruff vocals, finds the distorted howl of the same ghost that began Field Songs.
Lanegan, now looking like a fit, much younger Tom Waits, has always given us salvation through his suffering. Here at last with Field Songs, it looks as if he's mastered his own demons and found his own redemption by turning the specters of his poisons into sacred wine. "Oh, the glorious sound of the one way street / and you can't get it down without crying." -Craig Young
From the Philadelphia Weekly, May 2001
Mark Lanegan FIELD SONGS Sub Pop
Like all great blues singers, Mark Lanegan is obsessed with death. He sings like a haunted man, always looking over his shoulder for that hellhound on his trail. While many of the songs on Lanegan's four previous solo releases sounded like sketches of despair, Field Songs cuts through the murk and, thankfully, goes straight for the gut. Much of this disc recalls Lanegan's more melodic work with the late, great Screaming Trees, who were wrongly tagged as grunge but were really the heavyweight champs of psychedelic blues-rock in the early '90s. Field Songs isn't as gloomy as Lanegan's previous solo work, but it's not an upbeat album by any means. On the opening track, "One Way Street," Lanegan sings, "I'm dressed in white/ Send roses to me/ I drink so much sour whiskey I can't hardly see," in a deep, soulful bellow that's always compared to Jim Morrison, but has much more in common with the phrasing of Tom Waits' damaged rasp. Eerie shards of feedback and guitar effects provided by ex-Dinosaur Jr. bassist and longtime Lanegan collaborator Mike Johnson ripple through tunes like "Resurrection Song" and the Indian-influenced "No Easy Action." Lanegan co-wrote the album's best track, "Kimiko's Dream House," with Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the Gun Club shortly before Pierce's death in 1996 following surgery to treat a blood clot in his brain. Built around a Led Zeppelin-like acoustic melody, the song seems a fitting elegy for a friend, especially when Lanegan sings, "It's a matter of time, like I told you before." On Field Songs, Lanegan sounds like he's finally getting comfortable with himself as a singer. But that doesn't mean he's not still listening to the ghosts rattling their chains in his mind. A- --TIM ZATZARINY JR.
From the Seattle Weekly , May 2001
MARK LANEGAN Field Songs (Sub Pop)
As expected, ex-Screaming Trees frontman still dreary and depressed. Mark Lanegan records gravel-voiced ruminations for nights of drinking 'n' driving. Which ain't the wisest way to spend an evening of heart-heavy contemplation, but the ex-Screaming Trees frontman never claimed that listening to Field Songs would be the best method for coping with life. Not that any of this should be surprising for longtime fans. Extraordinarily similar to his previous solo outings in sound and style, Lanegan's fourth Sub Pop album is full of romantic revelations and haunting heartache, with no relief anywhere inside these dozen narratives of desolation and introspection--just like his devotees love it and live it. "One Way Street" opens the album announcing that "I drink so much sour whiskey I can't hardly see," and by the time the albums creep to its close, he's going in circles and resigning himself to the fact that there's "Not a thing in this world to do except be alone in it" ("She's done too much"). Sure, the pain can be overbearing--think Chan Marshall on one helluva bar crawl--but that's exactly the point, and so Field Songs is never anything less than another one of his gravely beautiful and emotionally intoxicating trips down life's lonely highway.--Jimmy Draper
Copyright May 2001, Maxim