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Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan 

Ballad of the Broken Seas (V2)

Walk the Line's smoldering duets reminded us that male-female pairings can be combustible chemistry experiments. Now former Belle and Sebastian chanteuse Isobel Campbell and erstwhile Screaming Trees singer (and established solo artist) Mark Lanegan take the Johnny Cash-June Carter dynamic to spectral extremes, with Campbell ascending to ethereality and Lanegan reveling in noir seediness.

On the opening cut "Deus Ibi Est," Lanegan describes "God's own private drumroll" in gritty NFL Films tones, while Campbell's voice hovers above like an angel. Campbell's verses usually receive a noticeably sunnier backdrop than Lanegan's, and when the instrumental elements merge during the final refrains, it feels like a romantic reunion. The pair harmonizes effectively, but Broken Seas is at its best when Campbell and Lanegan isolate their contrasting approaches, role-playing as unrepentant player and sultry seductress (a wicked take on Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man") or weary wooer and innocent invitee (the sweetly creepy "[Do You Wanna] Come Walk With Me?")

More by Andrew Miller

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