Smoked Bourbonism- Tom Waits, The growling pianist



Thomas Alan “Tom” Waits (born December 7, 1949) is a man of distinctive musical persona.  He meddles with pre-rock styles such as jazz, blues, vaudeville and a small amount of voodooism.  Mix this with a seedy, smokey bar and a bottle of insanity you can begin to understand his style.  His voice is described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding;

“like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”

This is pretty close to the truth.



 His exploration of american low-life is not only darkly poetic but touching.  His penchant for the strange, skewed hats, cigarettes and whiskey have characterised him in modern culture. The guardian says;

”Those echoes, on any given album, may range from Brecht and Weill to vintage Jagger and Richards, as well as Irish ballads, nursery rhymes, the blues, and Beat poetry. His music borrows from both the traditional and avant-garde traditions, and owes as much in its technological primitivism to the field recordings of old blues singers as to the innovations of experimental music pioneers such as Harry Partch, who made his own hybrid instruments.”



I enjoy Tom Waits not only for his music but his completely unorthodox approach.  It is admirable and distances him from the modern damned world of popular music.  He is completely down to earth yet so far from it which makes his music so relevant to the time and even more important.  Image


His combination of genres and use of alternate cover songs sung with his black gravelled voice make his albums some of the most compelling compilations of music I have ever listened to.  His gritty and grimy tones could suggest his songs are born out of a drunken torpor however I am a strong believer that this man is a perfectionist.  The stories told in his songs have been immortalised and his relevance is shown through the sheer length of time he has been performing at sell out venues fuelled by his strong cult following.


His eccentric genius will not be forgotten as his popularity has not ceased in the stead of pre-pubescent and middle aged chart domination.  His current popularity is a testament to individuality.  He is undoubtedly a world shaker.  Long may he growl and thunder.


Waits with Iggy Pop


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