The musical equivalent of costume drama, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan’s Sunday at Devil Dirt fiddles predictably with influence and archetype, resulting in an album that’s constantly reemerging from the dressing room. Everything feels borrowed in some respect, from the darkness-and-light casting of the pair’s duets to the songs themselves, which are laden with enough clear-cut genre signifiers as to seem instantly comfortable. The U.S. edition adds five tracks to the original release (which appeared in Europe in May) but does nothing to change the formula, with Lanegan wielding his thick voice on gloomy, minor-key compositions and Campbell wispily sprinkling hers from above. All the usual Americana set pieces are on display: “Seafaring Song” spins an expectedly lovelorn tale over a slowly circling picked guitar and heavy strings meant to recall the ominous churn of the ocean, while “The Raven” builds drearily with shuddering violin and well-timed bell strikes. “Shot Gun Blues” employs a slightly different formula, with Campbell moaning breathy junkyard blues over an affected patina of scratchy, old LP fuzz, but the effect remains the same. Still, the lyrics are competent, the posturing never feels too artificial, and Lanegan’s gruff rasp and Campbell’s airy voice blend together like a well-made cup of coffee. Familiarity was apparently the goal here, and it’s ably met, leaving an album full of sharp little songs that gleam with genre touchstones.
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