I'll Take Care of You
Who'd've guessed that that guy from the Screaming Trees would leave behind the whole imploding scene his band got lumped into and become, uh, pretty good? It's not that surprising, though, when you consider the guy's voice; where a lot of his erstwhile contemporaries stuck to growling like they were doing a Big Bad Wolf impersonation, Mark Lanegan always sounded more like he just spent a lot of nights in smoky bars, downing glass after glass of liquor. He's got that raspy, growl-y edge to his voice, but as he proves here with the Motown-ish "Consider Me," he can actually sing quite ably, too.
Since his band fizzled out, Lanegan has succeeded in reinventing himself -- no mean feat, in this era of pigeonholes -- first as a depressed country boy stuck in the city, and now looks poised to do it again, this time as a bluesy crooner. I'll Take Care of You is about half of each, with some songs, like "Shiloh Town" and "Shanty Man's Life," harking back to his last couple of solo efforts, where he was pretty solidly in the 'y'allternative' camp. Unfortunately, those good ol' country-boy songs just don't fare as well here. The music's fine, in most cases, but it just feels like he's not making as much of an effort as he has in the past -- the stories of cowboy woe ("Little Sadie") and backwoods desperation ("Shanty Man's Life") seem hackneyed, and in one song ("Badi-Da") he can't even come up with the words for a chorus.
Then there's the other stuff on the album. After the lukewarm dirge-country opener "Carry Home," "I'll Take Care of You" turns down the lights and attempts a subtle seduction. The sinister "Creeping Coastline of Lights" is in the same vein, sounding more like recent Urge Overkill than Uncle Tupelo; you can almost feel the L.A. wind blowing down the dark coastal highway. On "Consider Me," Lanegan even tries on those old Motown shoes with a bit of pleading soul-blues, and the result is good enough to make me forgive the utterly useless closer, "Boogie Boogie" (which isn't even that). Skip the alt-country tracks, and this is a very cool EP, perfect for those nights knocking back whiskey in dimly-lit bars. (JH)
(Sub Pop Records)