The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Reviewed by Margaret Moser, June 2, 2000, Music

New Coat of Paint: Songs of Tom Waits


Tom Waits writes good songs. No, Tom Waits writes great songs, and what makes them great is Tom Waits singing them. In the hands of artists like Lee Rocker ("New Coat of Paint"), Lydia Lunch ("Heartattack and Vine"), and Dexter Romweber ("Romeo Is Bleeding"), they're still Waits' songs, but without the gravelly vocal distraction. In Waits' world, the streets are always dark and wet, the characters always shady, and every beauty is flawed. That's the turf these and 11 other artists, including the Knoxville Girls ("Virginia Avenue"), Preacher Boy ("Old Boyfriends"), and Sally Norvell ("Please Call Me, Baby") must also tread to get it right on New Coat Of Paint, because getting Waits wrong is simply a sin. A few veterans in this cast of largely cult and offbeat artists on this tribute bear notice -- a posthumous appearance by Screamin' Jay Hawkins ("Whistlin' Past the Graveyard"), bluesman Floyd Dixon ("Blue Skies"), and singer-speaker Andre Williams ("Pasties and a G-String") liberate this from the mundane ranks of most tributes, as does the sheer genius of the songs within. But that's Tom Waits for ya -- he loves the down and dirty, and makes the listener love them as well. And there's nothing like a good tribute to make you rush out and buy the original.

** *

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