The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

The Twilight Singers is Greg Dulli, formerly lead crooner with (and arguably the heart and soul of) Cincinnati-via-Seattle’s legendary Afghan Whigs, essentially a solo project with a few highly influential friends on board (in this case, the seemingly ubiquitous Mark Lanegan appears to duet on sepulchral closer NUMBER NINE).

Whereas the debut Twilight Singers album was more of a low-key affair, BLACKBERRY BELLE pretty much continues where his previous band left off. Tracks like the opening, piano-led ballad MARTIN EDEN and haunting ST. GREGORY evoke the nocturnal smokiness of the Whigs’ incredible BLACK LOVE album, while storming rock anthems like TEENAGE WRISTBAND and DECATUR ST. could easily have come from their breakthrough opus GENTLEMEN.

Star of the show is still Dulli’s voice, silky and warm, but world-weary and so full of melancholy that it stops you in your tracks…just listen how he pushes himself to the wire alongside the explosive THE KILLER. Thematically we’re in familiar Dulli territory – sex, sleaze, regret and redemption – but the sudden death of a close friend has lent him an even darker outlook on life.

The closing duet with the gravel-voiced Lanegan asks the Devil for one last chance to live, an epic Pink Floyd-inspired finale that probably sums up Dulli’s skewed worldview: no matter how doomed you may think you are, there’s always the chance for salvation.

Tinged with sadness, but also hope, BLACKBERRY BELLE revisits the classic sound of the hitherto AWOL Afghan Whigs – welcome back Greg, we’ve missed you.

5 stars