As frontman of Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan made important contributions to the alt-rock canon, but his twelve solo albums showcase a broad range of songwriting and performance skills that do a number on our attempts to classify them. Has God Seen My Shadow? is much better than a greatest-hits collection, or a scattershot attempt to corral samples of every one of his non-Trees projects on a single platter. Available as a 2-CD or 3-LP set, both of which include a 44-page booklet with reproductions of hand-written lyric sheets, the collection is divided into two parts, each of which plays like its own mixtape, lovingly curated by the singer.
The first twenty tracks highlight some of Lanegan’s favorite releases, made up of two- to four-song chunks of albums starting with 2004’s Bubble Gum, reeling backwards through Field Songs, Scraps at Midnight, and covers record I’ll Take Care of You, touching on 1990 debut The Winding Sheet before wrapping up with 1994’s breakthrough Whiskey For The Holy Ghost.
The remaining twelve tracks are previously-unreleased demos and outtakes following roughly the same chronology, focusing on the particularly fruitful period in the aughts when Lanegan sang with Queens of The Stone Age and played on projects with The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli. A scant few cuts are only for completists, but the majority are gems of subtly psychedelic beauty crowned with Lanegan’s rich and unstrained baritone voice.
The collection is as notable for what it omits as what it includes, stopping prior to Lanegan’s 2006 collaboration with Bell and Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell. Anyone waiting for more cuts from the 1989 sessions with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic that produced their gritty take on Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” will also be disappointed. However, Has God Seen My Shadow? stands well enough on its own to win over new fans and serve as an excellent, possibly even essential addition to an existing collection.