Isobel Campbell



COMPARE the fortunes of Belle and Sebastian and Isobel Campbell, the band's original Belle, since they went their separate ways in 2002.

The Glaswegian pop orchestra are doing nicely for themselves strip-mining that endless chasm of winsome musical prose. Meanwhile, the Campbell solo career to date (five albums' worth) has been impressive in versatility and ambition, the poetic honesty of her lyrics balanced by an almost chilly air of projected personal reservation.

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The latest, and least expected, collaboration from the refreshing land of Do-As-You-Please that she hops through is Ballad of the Broken Seas, a transatlantic vocal entwining with sometime Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan. A latter-day Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, observers say, but the nice-girl Campbell and wiry, tattooed Lanegan are even more extreme a pairing, which is why the record works.

Sadly, however, Lanegan wasn't part of this supporting tour, and the honour of being Campbell's vocal correspondent fell to ex-Vaseline Eugene Kelly. They have worked together before, and his gruff tones combine well with her sweet, quiet voice, although the pair - she in understated denim and checked shirt, he in elder-statesman black - are an unremittingly Glaswegian double act. Of course the show was as well-practised and satisfying as all of Campbell's infrequent forays tend to be, but the one question was: "What would it have been like to hear Lanegan roughen the edges of songs such as Ramblin' Man and Honey Child What Can I Do?" A niggle, but not enough to spoil a fine show.