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New Mark Lanegan anthology casts a large 'Shadow'

Has God Seen My Shadow?
Has God Seen My Shadow?
Light In the Attic

Mark Lanegan - Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology: 1989-2011

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While Lanegan's vocal talent was always evident when he was in the Screaming Trees, it wasn't until his first solo album, 1990's The Winding Sheet, that he seemed to truly find his voice. This was the first of three classic efforts of an artist that took escaping the standard rock song trappings to come into his own.

Selections from Sheet and the other two aforementioned classics, 1994's Whiskey For the Holy Ghost and 2004's Bubblegum, make up 9 of the 20 tracks that comprise the first disc of Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology: 1989-2011. Many of Lanegan's solo albums were just sort of milquetoast. However, there were some fantastic tracks and many of them are represented in "One Way Street", "Low", "Shiloh Town", and the saving grace of Scraps At Midnight, "Wheels".

The best bits of disc 1 (if you're a CD person) are the hidden gems. From the 2003 EP, Here Comes That Weird Chill, is this sparse piano-driven hymn, "Lexington Slow Down". Hardly an uplifting song (most tracks on here aren't), it's the kind of song that would bring the house down at a funeral. Another track, "Mirrored", is the fantastic b-side of the PJ Harvey duet "Hit the City" off of Bubblegum. Strangely enough, "Hit the City" is forsaken on this collection for the other Harvey collaboration, "Come To Me". To be fair, "Come To Me" is a far superior song that plays to the strengths of Lanegan's voice with a deliberate pace and plenty of room for that smoky baritone to fill.

Disc 1 is 5 stars, no doubt. It's a proper anthology that encompasses his entire solo run through 2004 (covering labels Sub Pop and Beggars Banquet). Disc 2 is a hodgepodge of unreleased material that covers the same time period (perhaps later, according to the title). Like on most collections of this nature, there is a reason that the new tracks weren't unearthed until now. Most of them just leave you lukewarm. There are three excellent exceptions to the rule, though.

"To Valencia Courthouse" is a rare showcase of Lanegan using vocal harmonies, which begs the question why he wouldn't use them more often. "Halcyon Daze" shows him diving deeper into his lowest registers with hint of accordion accenting the piece. The big quandary is the John Cale cover, "Big White Cloud". Lanegan has released two cover albums and this isn't on either. It's just a wonderful rendition of an arresting tune that gets just a bit elevated (no disrespect to Cale).

Has God Seen My Shadow? serves as a perfect gateway for those not familiar with Lanegan's material, getting a dose of the full spectrum of his discography. Listeners would be encouraged to seek out The Winding Sheet, Whiskey For the Holy Ghost, and Bubblegum to truly immerse themselves in his greatness.