These early recordings offer a telling glimpse of Lanegan’s initial efforts as an emerging solo artist with his own unique vision.
Despite his somewhat dark disposition, Mark Lanegan has been known to be surprisingly gregarious at times. A former member of Screaming Trees, Soulsavers and Queens of the Stone Age, he’s also enjoyed collaborations with Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli, multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood, all in addition to an extensive solo catalog. Nevertheless, Lanegan’s stormy and sinister mood twists often give reason for pause and it takes a specifically focused mindset to fully appreciate his often unnerving ambiance.
Consequently, it’s a joy to find Sub Pop releasing the nascent recordings that mark the initial stages of his individual output. They date back to his first solo efforts circa the early-‘90s, albums that are all out of print or previously unreleased on vinyl in the US. Remastered and transferred from newly lacquered source material, they offer a telling glimpse of Lanegan’s initial efforts as an emerging artist with his own unique vision. The albums in question -- 1990’s The Winding Sheet, 1994’s Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, 1998’s Scraps at Midnight, 1999's I’ll Take Care of You, and 2001’s Field Songs -- reflect an artist who gleaned his muse from equal parts melancholia and melodrama, and became so focused and fearless in his pursuits, he’s clinged to it ever since. Of course, Lanegan didn’t stop there, as evidence by a spate of recent recordings, but now, given this box set compilation, fans can get a complete glimpse of the early evolution that led to his present day pursuits.
In truth, Lanegan didn’t vary his MO all that much early on and to this day, his sound and sensibility stays very much the same. The Winding Sheet showcased his dark, dry tones and songs that were often as haunting as they were harrowing. Whiskey for the Holy Ghost found him refining that somnambulant sound, and while that helped expand his reach, accessibility didn’t necessarily follow. The same could be said of Scraps at Midnight, although I’ll Take Care of You found some degree of deeper engagement, as evidenced by the sentiments expressed in the title as well as a greater attempt to engage his audience. Field Songs could be considered the best of the bunch, an attempt to plough his roots and cultivate a folkish noir that sat well with his desolate domain. With it, Lanegan proved his ability to create striking soundscapes from even the most bleak and barren aural imagery.
While there is a certain sameness to Lanegan’s motif, the songs borne early on make for a fascination glimpse into decidedly dire environs where practically everything he imagined appears dimly lit and unsettled. And while it’s often unnerving, Lanegan’s always been a singular auteur, as evidenced in these valuable glimpses into that earlier era.