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Apr 082014

Often, it is somebody else’s interpretation of a Tom Waits song that reveals the lyrical and melodic side of his artistry. Waits has written many beautiful songs, but you have to peel back the layers of everything else that makes him interesting to find that inner core. Tom Waits’ recording of “Dirt in the Ground,” from Bone Machine, is slow, funereal march with somber horns in the background. The mood is clear, but the lyrics take close listening to decipher. Continue reading »

Aug 022013

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

From a Tom Waits interview, circa 1985:

You were in your early twenties on your first album, but you already had an old man’s perspective in songs like “Martha” and, though I can’t say why, “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You.”

I have a little trouble with those songs when I hear them. I don’t really like listening to my early songs. I guess I feel I got better as a songwriter.

Maybe they remind you too much of yourself at the time.

Probably. Yeah. A sentimental guy bellyaching. What the hell?

Continue reading »

Sep 072012

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Jon Bon Jovi was on VH1 Storytellers, telling the audience about the cover he’d just performed. “Bruce wishes he wrote that song,” he said. “I wish I wrote that song even more. But it was that grouchy old guy from California.”

Indeed it was. Tom Waits had fallen in sha-la-la-la-love with Kathleen Brennan (born in Johnsburg, IL; raised in Morristown, NJ), and he wanted the world to know. “Jersey Girl” marked the moment Waits climbed out of the gutter to be with the one he loved. He sings of crossing the river to the Jersey side; it could be the Hudson River, but it could also be the river Styx, with Waits leaving the underworld behind to rejoin the carnival of Planet Earth. All for the love of a woman. What could be more romantic? Continue reading »

Apr 302012

Make fun of Tom Jones’ panty-throwing appeal all you want, but the man has an ear for a cover. We still spin his brilliant “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” on the regular (why did that never get a studio version?), and now he’s back with a Tom Waits tune: “Bad As Me,” the title track to Waits’ 2011 LP. Continue reading »

Jul 142011

Last night London’s Barbicon theater held a tribute to Tom Waits’ seminal Rain Dogs. Performers including St. Vincent and the Tiger Lillies covered every song off the game-changing record, collaborating with a backing band that included Steve Nieve on keys. High-quality videos of both their performances have cropped up on YouTube and…wow. As she so often does, St. Vincent will knock you on your ass. Continue reading »