Tracyanne Campbell / Danny Coughlan / Tracyanne & Danny

Tracyanne & Danny

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After the passing of her friend and Camera Obscura bandmate Carey Lander in 2015, it took a while for Tracyanne Campbell to get back to making music. When she did, it was in collaboration with Danny Coughlan of the band Crybaby, whose 2012 album she had greatly admired. They began the early stage of writing songs together when Crybaby opened for Camera Obscura on tour in 2012, but it wasn't until a few years later that Coughlan sent Campbell a cassette of a song idea. That gesture led to an album's worth of girl group and early rock & roll era-inspired songs that make up Tracyanne & Danny. Recorded at Edwyn Collins' remote studio with Collins and Dexys member Sean Read sharing the producer's chair, the album is lush and emotional, simple and honest, heartbreaking and warm. The two singers' voices blend together nicely, and each shine when the spotlight is on one or the other. Campbell's voice is one of the most recognizably lovely instruments in post-2000s indie pop, and Coughlan brings a nicely keening, Roy Orbison-meets-Hawley croon to the party. The backing band is top-notch, with Carwyn Ellis working magic on a variety of keys. The songs are divided between thoughtful ballads that revolve around that old favorite of crooners everywhere -- heartache -- and rambling, good-natured tunes that have a sweeping, cinematic sound and big-hearted soul that will be very familiar to fans of Camera Obscura. The Coughlan-sung "Jacqueline" is one of the catchiest, saddest slow songs; "Home and Dry" is the most impressive of the lot, with Campbell emoting sweetly over backing that any girl group worth their mascara would have killed for. The midtempo weeper "Alabama" is the beating, broken heart of the album. It's a touching tribute to Campbell's friendship with Lander set to a rollicking country tune with a very hooky chorus and a guest vocal from Edwyn Collins that will have even the hardest-hearted listener reaching for a handkerchief. There are a couple other midtempo tracks that have a little country in their DNA, some that have the swing and sway of doo wop ("Anybody Else But You"), or a bit of uptempo pop excitement ("Cellophane Girl"), and lots that sound like they'd be hits on a Camera Obscura album ("It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts," "The Honeymooners"). This isn't a Camera Obscura record though. It's not a Tracyanne Campbell-dominated album, either. It's truly a collaboration that benefits from the input of both the participants. Their writing styles complement each other, their voices sound great together, and their sensibilities harmonize nicely throughout this gentle treat of a record. Campbell and Coughlan's efforts are matched by the wonderful arrangements that bring in strings, horns, pedal steel, and even accordion, each in small and perfectly applied doses, and the supportive production. It's truly a team effort and the result is a heartbreakingly emotional record that sounds great and has tunes that will leave the listener humming long after the final melancholy notes fade.

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