Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits
Devised as a 70th Birthday gift to Tom Waits (December 7 is the day) this compilation of female singer/songwriters interpreting material from all across Waits’ 45 year recording career is in fact a gift to us all.
In these fragile times having Aimee Mann sing…well, anything…is nourishment for the soul. But having her sing Wait’s Hold On? Come on. That’s your day (and night) and whole week sorted. Same too of the devastating version of Georgia Lee by Phoebe Bridgers. What a year for Bridgers. She seems unstoppable right now.
Going back to Waits’ debut sisters Shelby Lynne and Alison Moorer milk the most from Ol’ 55 – just gorgeous hearing them hang on the “sun’s comin’ up” refrain.
And Corinne Bailey Rae who, most often, I could take or leave, seems to tap into some of the tone of Rickie Lee Jones for her version of Jersey Girl, which is an extra little special connection I guess.
The producer and liner notes essayist behind this is Warren Zanes (musician, producer and author – you know him, or should check him out, for his work with the Del Fuegos and excellent books about Dusty Springfield and Tom Petty). He has expertly chosen the right artists. And they have expertly chosen the right songs.
This allows anyone a way into Waits if the junkyard percussion and gravel-pit growl seemed either off-putting or hackneyed. And for Waits fans these new versions play like extra readings, deeper dives, the lyrics to the fore. Also, remember that for most of his career – and particularly for the years where he really broke out – Waits’ career has been a partnership with his wife Kathleen Brenan. Though she’s seldom photographed and rarely heard she is a lyricist and co-producer, she has provided a certain and definite feminine touch to the writing and recordings; their blended humanity is the musical heart of the operation.
Sometimes its enough just to hear the song in a new way (as it is with Take It With Me by Angie McMahon) and other times it’s frankly enough to hear the singer, particularly when its Patty Griffin (Ruby’s Arms) or Iris DeMent (House Where Nobody Lives). But take some of Wait’s best material (Time, Downtown Train) and put it in the hands (and heart and voice) of a Rosanne Cash or a Courtney Marie Andrews…and oh my fucking god!
This is one of 2019’s best and most inspired musical ideas.
And happy birthday dear Tom.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron