Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tom Waits Covers: (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night

Shawn Colvin: (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night

Madeleine Peyroux: (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night


Shawn Colvin's mostly-live 1994 covers album Cover Girl marked a key moment in my evolution as a cover fan; it also introduced me to one of Tom Waits' most hopeful, beautiful songs. It's not the strongest cut on the album - a privilege shared by songs originally by The Band, John Prine, Talking Heads and others - but I found Colvin's version of Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night a gem nonetheless, with that little girl voice and a light acoustic swing offering a nuanced, wistful exploration of the eternal pursuit of the nirvana moment, the perfect meeting of place and time and company of which every barfly dreams.

Then, in 2006, Madeleine Peyroux released her own version - a slow, low cowboy ballad of a song, utterly gorgeous and dripping with late-night drowsiness - and my life was transformed again. And so we see through this, and a thousand other takes from a thousand other jazz-bent female vocalists, how Tom Waits compositions translate so well to the female chanteuse. Writ large, it is a near-universal truth of musical performance: the inevitable feminine counterpart to gruff and gravely was, is, and always has been sultry and smooth. But nowhere does this play out better than in Tom Waits coverage, in this coverblogger's opinion.

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