Nov 302023
Orquesta 24 Cuadros

“I’ll Be Gone” is a deep cut from that most Waitsian of Tom Waits albums, Franks Wild Years. The soundtrack to a play based on a song from an earlier album (his eighth), where Waits first established his infamous sound. Waits fully leans into this new persona and sound on the record, and “I’ll Be Gone” is a perfect example of this, with the cockcrow, the accordion, the angular guitar, the marimba and, of course, Waits himself.

Orquesta 24 Cuadros is a large Mexican group that has been releasing music since 2016. They blend genres with their unique lineup which incorporates a horn section and some string players. It’s natural for most bands covering Waits that they won’t slavishly follow his unique arrangements. There’s not much point as Waits’ style is so much his own but, on their new “I’ll Be Gone” cover, the Orquesta doesn’t completely stray, however, because there are horns here as there are on the original. Still, their approach in terms of both arrangement and tempo is quite idiosyncratic.

The song begins with a string section which is soon joined by a driving beat. But that’s just the intro and when the song starts up proper, there is much more of a kinship with Waits, with the tuba and the the polka-esque feel. That only lasts a few lines, as the whole rest of the band (including backing vocalists) joins in. There are little horn fills and an electric guitar solo much more in line with mainstream playing (at least in tone) than what a guitarist on a Waits record normally delivers. There’s a break, where the vocalist’s vocal effect changes and most of the band drops out while the bassist walks but that builds to dance beat followed by some horn fills in the coda.

It’s a pretty schizophrenic and fun cover which both manages to hint at certain Waitsianisms and also sound very, very distinct (mostly due to the lead vocalist and that weird dance section).

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