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I know Tom Waits isn’t for everyone. Even amongst peers he’s the perpetual black sheep. I also know that he doesn’t fit well within the regular tunes of choice at SBWR. But screw all that, he also happens to be one of the greatest living songwriters. So here goes…

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Tom Waits is character unto himself. He doesn’t smoke or drink anymore. He never left Missouri on a rail road track. And he damn sure didn’t hang out with a one legged carnival midget! But that ruins all the fun of his poetry. I’m happy to buy into his myth. In my mind he was born in the back of taxi cab and has the menu of his first job at Napoleone Pizza House tattooed on his guts. That part is true actually, the job that is.

‘Bad As Me’ marks the first official album release in seven years. However, I dispute this because the Orphans collection released in 2006 was much bigger than an album. Three discs of bliss! For these last few releases its been all dirt and grit in the production process. For ‘Mule Variations’ Tom Waits recorded in an actual barn and insisted on the doors being open to let the world in, Roosters and all. On ‘Real Gone’ he recorded by the Mississippi and it ended up sounding dirty as mud but ‘Bad As Me’ has a little extra shine.

‘Get Lost’ extends Tom Wait’s unique blend of rockabilly junkyard blues, not dissimilar from the opener of ‘Orphans: Bastards’ (‘Lie To Me’). ‘Get Lost’ has a tangible energy to it, I can see the barn dust flying every time I hear it. It’s this visceral quality and the untouchable charm of his lyrics that keep Tom Waits so far ahead of the pack. That’s if there is a pack. And of course his not so secret weapon, co-writer and wife Kathleen Brennan.

Few veteran artists mature so well musically as they get older, most age and lose a little edge. Exceptions to the rule could be Dylan’s ‘Modern Times’ or Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series. But Waits really does get better with each record. There’s more and more attitude and sorrow with each release. ‘Hell Broke Luce’ sees Tom Waits dropping a passionate F-bomb followed by an almighty chorus. This military style delivery pushes a theme from the ‘Real Gone’ album (‘Don’t Go Into The Barn’) but also has angular guitars and off-timed rhythms that harken back to the ‘Bone Machine’ era. For someone that is so openly opposed to war, he nails the drill sergeant role.

My only criticism of the ‘Bad As Me’ album is that the tracklist is a little jarring. You get whipped into a frenzy by one track and then thrust straight into a ballad, if I had my way it would be split into two sides. That’s it, otherwise I would post every single track, but that just wouldn’t be cricket! Fans should go out and grab this one, it’s a right of passage! Sermon over.

Tom Waits – ‘Bad As Me’ tracklist…
1. Chicago
2. Raised Right Men
3. Talking At The Same Time
4. Get Lost
5. Face To The Highway
6. Pay Me
7. Back In The Crowd
8. Bad As Me
9. Kiss Me
10. Satisfied
11. Last Leaf
12. Hell Broke Luce
13. New Year’s Eve

Download ‘Bad As Me’ via iTunes or get the deluxe package or vinyl here. Visit Tom Waits @ tomwaits.com or through Anti Records.