Mark Lanegan / Duke Garwood

Black Pudding

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Though Black Pudding marks the first time that singer Mark Lanegan and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood have recorded together, it isn't the first time they've collaborated. The latter toured with the Gutter Twins, Lanegan's project with Greg Dulli. Garwood's name isn't as well-known to the general public as the singer's, but his reputation among musicians certainly is. He's worked with everyone from the Orb to Wire, from Wooden Wand to Sir Richard Bishop, from Josh T. Pearson to Kurt Vile. For those familiar with Lanegan's 2000s solo work, the moody nature of the material here will come as little surprise; let's face it, his voice is coated in darkness. That said, all but two of these songs -- the lovely guitar instrumentals by Garwood that bookend the album -- are co-writes. They range from spooky blues numbers such as "Pentacostal" and "Death Rides a White Horse," where the guitar is the primary instrument, to fractured, skeletal, nocturnal funk numbers such as "Cold Molly." On the latter, drum machine loop, a wonky guitar, a propulsive clavinet, and a tenor saxophone (the latter two sound like a heroin-fueled Headhunters), move the record in a demented direction. Other standouts include the Americana-tinged "War Memorial," the drum loop-drenched, droning blues of "Mescalito," and the open-tuned minor-key drone fest "Thank You," with its elliptical piano, backmasked strings, and slide guitar. "Shades of the Sun," even with its ghostly, shimmering organ, slower tempo, and wholly atmospheric feel, is a kindred cousin to Jeffrey Lee Pierce's "Mother of Earth" from the Gun Club's second album, Miami. Black Pudding doesn't break any new ground. But that isn't the point. Co-writing and recording a bleak yet emotionally honest collection of songs rooted in classic forms but not bound by them, is. As such, it succeeds in spades. Garwood's haunted musical vision is seamlessly suited to underscore Lanegan's dry-as-dust vocals and his American Gothic lyric skills.

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