Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mardi Gras leftovers

In Tuesday's hasty - caught with my trousers down, is it really that time of year again already? - posting of a great live performance of  I Wish I Was In New Orleans, Tom Waits's nostalgia-drenched paean to life in The Big Easy, I had to pass over a number of other intriguing oddities I turned up.

This, for example... a so-called "Calligraphy Animation" by Glen Epstein and John Richard (although the handful of lyric captions scarcely counts as 'calligraphy', and there's no animation at all; it's just a montage). The use of - mostly rather scarily intense and grotesque - figures from the sketches of Egon Schiele is quite compelling; and it does seem to be the only convenient posting of Waits's original studio recording of the song, from the Small Change album.

Even odder, I discovered that Scarlett Johansson produced an album of Tom Waits covers - Wherever I Lay My Head - about 4 years ago. This song is rendered as a breathy lullaby, with a ponderous plink-plink glockenspiel that soon becomes irritating. It's interestingly weird, I suppose (which Tom would doubtless like), but it doesn't inspire me to check out the rest of the record (although NME apparently rated it their 23rd best album of 2008 - so, perhaps it doesn't completely suck...[I'll have to take Wikipedia's word on that, because the NME site only lists their Top 10]).

A more satisfying discovery though was this, a different song of the same name by Ben Prestage, a rising star of American roots music. Here he seems to blend zydeco with a dash of delta blues to produce a zestful and upbeat stomp, a complete contrast to Tom's song, which is slow and introspective, all lilting melancholia. Apparently, Mr Prestage honed his craft busking in the blues Mecca of Memphis, Tennessee. He is someone I should look out for more of.

And finally, here's Tom again, doing a very gentle version of the song (followed by $29 from the Blue Valentines album, with some great sax on it!) at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981.

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