04 April 2011


I'd venture to say that Tom Waits' voice is an....acquired taste. I've acquired it gradually, gently, maybe selectively? Well, Nighthawks at the Diner, his 1975 live recording is one of these favored selections. The sheer poetry of this here tune, "Putnam County," it gets me every time. He sets out scenes of such pure blue-collar Americana. Until the moon was a stray dog on the ridge...And swizzle stick legs jack-knifed over Naugahyde stools...Leaving the little joint winkin' in the dark warm narcotic American night...With the porcelain poodles and the glass swans staring down from the knick-knack shelf....
He plays with the ruddiest combinations of words in his charcoally, aggregate tone. Then he underscores himself with sad cello and violin, a plaintive piano. All wrapped up within the parts is an intelligent, zinging yet base-level humor...it should astound you.

...And the GMC's and the Straight-8 Fords were coughing and wheezing
And they percolated as they tossed the gravel underneath the fenders
To weave home a wet slick anaconda of a two-lane
With tire irons and crowbars a-rattling
With a tool box and a pony saddle
You're grinding gears and you're shifting into first
Yeah, and that goddamned tranny's just getting worse, man
With the melody of see-ya-laters and screwdrivers on carburetors
Talking shop about money to loan
And palominos and strawberry roans
See ya tomorrow, hello to the Missus
With money to borrow and goodnight kisses...