This second collaboration between former Belle & Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell and ex-Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan expands on the stark, hard-bitten austerity of 2006’s Ballad of the Broken Seas. Campbell, who wrote or co-wrote 16 of the 17 tracks here, provides full arrangements that draw out sharp, session-quality contributions from the backing band, but Sunday at Devil Dirt actually outdoes its predecessor in dreariness—where the gritty Ballad hit one grim note over and over, Sunday climbs to risible heights of folk melodrama.
Lanegan’s voice, especially during his recent solo career, has depended on its barroom huskiness. But here he’s a cheap imitation of Tom Waits, and Campbell’s lyrics—a stale combination of salvation and blood, flesh and wine, hearts and flames, and crosses and chains—don’t help. The middle of the record drowns in excess, from the lounge rock of “Come on Over (Turn Me On)” to the nearly seven-minutes-long kitchen-sink blues of “Backburner.” Even on the lilting string interlude “Violin Tango,” Campbell adds the crackle of an old 78 RPM record, an effect that overwhelms the song’s gloomy grace.