Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tom Waits Covers: The Piano Has Been Drinking

Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks: The Piano Has Been Drinking


Dan Hicks' delightfully weary "cowboy jazz" take on this old Tom Waits tune lurches around like its unreliable narrator's attention span: it's a different bar, of a different type, than the woozy original - better populated, too - but it still spins like a wobbling top in its own way. It's also the cover which finally turned me on to the Tom Waits songbook in its entirety in the first place, way back at the turn of the century, despite a few others which had already come my way with their own power and potency, so I'm getting this one out of the way today, as our week begins.

Those unfamiliar with Dan Hicks should know he's a musician's musician, a critical success who never sold much in the way of albums even though he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone way back in - gulp - the year I was born. Beat The Heat, his 2000 comeback album as bandleader of the Hot Licks, features this and numerous other gleefully sly, silly tunes, and special guest spots from Bette Midler, Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Waits himself, and other well-known luminaries who came out of the woodwork for Hicks when he called, proving his continued relevance after a few decades piddling around off the charts entirely as an ensemble member and solo artist.

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