Mark Lanegan's Straight Songs Of Sorrow: exorcising ghosts, one song at a time

Gripping true-life confessions on Straight Songs Of Sorrow from the ex-grunge warrior Mark Lanegan

Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs Of Sorrow
(Image: © Heavenly Recordings)

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A masterful companion piece to Mark Lanegan’s unflinching memoir Sing Backwards And Weep, which details painfully the singer’s tumultuous years with Screaming Trees and his struggles with addiction as a redneck waster in Seattle, Straight Songs Of Sorrow draws from the same deep well of emotional experience. 

Greg Dulli, John Paul Jones and the Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis are among the guests, but this is very much a personal project, as Lanegan exorcises his ghosts on songs built from nervy electronica and wounded ambience. 

‘Is it my fate to be the last one standing?’, he asks on Skeleton Key, contemplating the premature deaths of great friends such as Kurt Cobain, Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Layne Staley

He craves eternal slumber on Ballad Of A Dying Rover, and invokes the bad-trip drone of Lou Reed on Ketamine, before finally achieving release with Eden Lost And Found, his vision of daylight warmed by strings and a primitive organ riff.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.