BEING THERE: Mark Lanegan @ Underground Arts


The first time I met Mark Lanegan was in the men’s room of the now-defunct Maxwell’s in Hoboken. Google reminds me that it was Novermber 4th 1989. Actually, ‘met’ is probably too strong a word for it. I was standing at the urinal, using it as God intended, when suddenly Lanegan burst through the door, ran up to the sink and proceeded to projectile vomit. Prolifically. Then he looked up in the mirror, wiped his mouth with the back of his had, turned on his heel, exited just as abruptly as he entered, and then climbed on stage with his lumberjack-ian cohorts in the Screaming Trees and together they proceeded to kill, as the Trees were wont to do in a live situation. Damn, I thought to myself, rock and fucking roll! If memory serves, their cover of Cream’s “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” achieved godhead that night. Last night at Underground Arts, Lanegan did not throw up — to the best of my knowledge — but he did throw down. Majorly. Dressed, fittingly enough, Man-In-Black-style, a pair of goggly spectacles perched on the bridge of his beak, his dirty blonde mane, having recovered from a Samson & Delilah-esque run-in with the scissors a few years back, once again skims his collar. Bathed in bordello-red light, backed just by an electric guitarist, he ran down a powerful set that was a mix of solo material, covers (Bertolt Brecht’s “Mack The Knife” and Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice,” both from his new ’50s-easy-listening covers collection Imitations), a few traditional numbers (“The Cheery Tree Carol” and “Autumn Leaves”) and a clutch of choice Screaming Trees songs (“Where The Twain Shall Meet,” “Halo Of Ashes”). All these years later The Voice — part whiskey-cured croon, part sepulchral croak — remains an expansive, arresting instrument. He still sounds like, to quote the Kossoy Sisters*,  “a man in the mines who sleeps in the pines.” Ever a man of few words, Lanegan said almost nothing to the capacity crowd last night save this priceless aside: “Sorry, I have a cold, so if my voice sounds a little deep and rough you know why.” Which is like Dolly Parton apologizing for being a little busty tonight. — JONATHAN VALANIA

PREVIOUSLY: Moby & Mark Lanegan “The Lonely Night”

*RELATED: The Kossoy Sisters are identical twin sisters (Irene Saletan and Ellen Christenson [1]) who perform American folk and old time music. In their music, Irene sings mezzo soprano vocal, and Ellen supplies soprano harmony, with Irene on guitar and Ellen playing the 5-string banjo in a traditional up-picking technique. Their performances are notable examples of close harmonies singing. They began performing professionally in their mid teens and are esteemed as a significant part of the popular folk music movement that started in the mid-1950s.

The sisters were born on May 11, 1938 in New York City, USA. The twins began singing together at about the age of six, in imitation of harmonies created in the home by their mother and aunt. At fifteen they attended a summer camp at which Pete Seeger and other well-known folk singers often performed, and they developed a lifelong attachment to the genre. They quickly discovered the bustling folk music scene in the Greenwich Village section of New York City and mingled with the people who congregated in Washington Square Park.[2]

When they were seventeen, they recorded the album Bowling Green which features the sisters’ close harmonies and accompaniment by Erik Darling.[3] The duo were introduced to a new audience when their version of “I’ll Fly Away” from this album was used in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. MORE