Whisky for the Holy Ghost
I wouldn't usually start by plagiarising the title of an album for a post...but it seemed the most appropriate title, when considering the life and times of Mark Lanegan. After all, it was the album that made me sit-up and seriously consider what an amazing singer and storyteller Lanegan is.
Upon discovering a few days ago that Lanegan had passed away at home in Ireland, I was pretty shocked. Not because Lanegan's lifestyle was in anyway clean...just that he always seemed one of those vagabonds that would somehow always dodge the reaper while continually using death as his muse.
While the circumstances of his death are not clear...it seems that complications from contracting Covid in 2021 may have been the cause. Indeed after reading an excerpt from his 2021 memoir, where he describes a tortured 6 weeks in ICU (that should be required reading for any lingering Covid skeptics out there) I would be surprised if he wasn't critically scarred from the experience.
The thing is, Lanegan always seemed primed for self-destruction. Having once said "That heroin stopped me dying from alcoholism", Lanegan was in my eyes a modern day outlaw...a troubled soul with an innate ability to channel raw emotion through one of the most distinctive voices of my generation. Flirting about the edges of the Seattle Grunge explosion, Lanegan stood out for me in two ways...he had long red hair which I did at the time, and for a skinny dude he sure had some pipes...a voice that sounded like Johnny Cash gargling gravel.
The Screaming Trees were never fairly lauded for their early output (which was pretty awesome), primarily because they were shadowed by other giants of the 'grunge' scene. So when Lanegan stepped out on his own, it was with little fanfare, except that I was working at Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus when his second solo album dropped and based on the allure of the CD cover alone I took it home for a listen. I was sold.
That revelation, would lead to many years trying to keep up with Mark Lanegan's sometimes very prolific output and amazing collaborations. From his songwriting contribution to the amazing Mad Season album 'Above' to his brief tenure as a full member of Queens of the Stone Age during their most dangerous period, Lanegan certainly had a great pool of friends to call upon. Likewise they used him like a gun-slinger for hire who somehow was able to bring the grit while still staking out his own territory within whatever genre he walked into.
PJ Harvey, Josh Homme, Duff McKagen, Slash and Kurt Cobain all collaborated with Lanegan, but the two pairings that had the most profound impact on me was with Greg Dulli from the Afghan Whigs on 'Saturnalia', and with ex-Belle and Sebastian songstress Isobel Campbell on 'Howl'. Actually, while I'm thinking about it, his efforts on the Soulsavers 'It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land' is pretty darn impressive too.
For the uninitiated, getting sucked into the Mark Lanegan void will seem quite daunting, especially as a cursory look at the Wiki page for his discography tells the tale of a restless creative soul (with ADD)...rendered even more impressive given the fact that he only got sober a decade ago?
While I am personally making a conscious decision to head back into my Vinyl-CD collections in order to spend less time on streaming services...they do have the benefit of introducing me to albums that I might not be able to find any other way. With this in mind, if the name Mark Lanegan still means nothing to you, then try checking out these albums:
Whiskey for the Holy Ghost
With Isobel Campbell:
Ballad of the Broken Seas
Mad Season: Above
The Gutter Twins: Saturnalia
Soulsavers: It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land