Every few years Mark Lanegan distances himself from the confines of Northwest-grunge veterans Screaming Trees and withdraws into an acoustically driven melancholia assisted by Dinosaur Jr. bassist Mike Johnson. But where 1994's "Whiskey for the Holy Ghost" sometimes found Lanegan swept up into a swirling maelstrom of confession and redemption, "Scraps at Midnight" feels like the somber aftermath of the storm.
Lanegan's dusky, evocative baritone is sometimes reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, but his brooding romanticism rings with an authenticity unattainable by the current crop of confessional pseudo-folk singers. Songs like "Waiting on a Train" and "Hotel" continue the subdued strum-and-twang wanderings of his previous solo efforts with tasteful instrumental enhancement by Johnson. Guest appearances by Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis and Sub Pop alumnus Tad Doyle on "Wheels" are welcome, but the disc's salvation comes from the hints of personal resignation on songs such as "Last One in the World" and "Because of This."