Isobel Campbell Sets Sail - Rolling Stone
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Isobel Campbell Sets Sail

Former Belle and Sebastian singer collaborates with Mark Lanegan on “Seas”

When Isobel Campbell couldn’t find anyone in her native Scotland to sing the low part on a song for her upcoming Ballad of the Broken Seas, the ethereal-voiced singer reached across the Atlantic and connected with one of rock’s deepest, growliest voices: former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan.

The collaboration began with a single song, but, pleased with the results, the two agreed to extend their partnership over the course of a full-length album. “I just really loved Mark’s voice,” says Campbell, a former member of Belle and Sebastian. “For a while, I’ve been really obsessed with Johnny Cash, and Mark’s got that kind of voice. But then also there’s sort of an otherworldly element to his voice as well — just a bit of a psychedelic element to it — which I’m really sort of bewitched by. Our voices go together pretty well — night and day, really. Because I was in a group before, I enjoy it most when I get to sing with other people.”

Due in September, Broken Seas features what would seem to be a strange pairing, given the contrasting sounds favored by Campbell and Lanegan’s previous bands. But Lanegan’s sound was particularly well-suited to the darker tone of Broken Seas. “I wrote a lot of the stuff in January 2004, and there’s hardly any daylight in Scotland then,” says Campbell. “Christmas is over, and all the fun times are over. So I was writing these quite dark songs.”

Campbell has also cooked up a second album, the folk-leaning Over the Wheat and the Barley, targeted for stores in January. Recorded with former Soup Dragons guitarist Jim McCulloch, the LP also features a guest spot from former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha. “I was in Virginia last summer for about three weeks, and I bought the Harry Smith anthology, and this record was really influenced by that,” says Campbell. “It’s like half-and-half: some new songs, and some traditional songs. I’ve loved folk music for decades, and I just wanted to do something stripped-back and see how it would sound.”


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