Album reviews: 'Women Sing Waits,' Strange Ranger, Jason James

The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

Various Artists

"Come On Up To the House: Women Sing Waits"

(Dualtone 1/2)

Tom Waits' stature as a Beat poet dirtbag balladeer and mischievous performance artist is secure. But how much is his music actually listened to? He doesn't tour frequently enough to keep his songs top of mind, and the scrap metal at the back of his throat is enough to scare away anyone seeking a soothing experience.

All of which makes "Come On Up to My House" an excellent idea. Produced by former Del Fuego and Tom Petty biographer Warren Zanes, it gathers together a multigenerational group of women tasked with bringing Waits' music to a new audience. Those giving his searing, scarred songs a more melodious hearing include more-or-less contemporaries such as Rosanne Cash and Patty Griffin, as well as millennial upstarts like Angie McMahon and Phoebe Bridgers.

The latter two turn in spare, heart-rending versions of songs from 1999's "Mule Variations." Australian songwriter McMahon quietly sings the bereft lover's lament "Take It With Me." Bridgers coaxes all the sadness out of "Georgia Lee," about a 12-year-old girl found murdered in 1999 near Waits' northern California home. "Why wasn't God watching?" Bridgers sings in an affecting performance. "Why was God not there for Georgia Lee?"


Also noteworthy is Corinne Bailey Rae's spin on "Jersey Girl," the Waits song that people think Bruce Springsteen wrote, and Iris DeMent's countrified "House Where Nobody Lives." Best of all is sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer's spirited take on "Ol' 55," which captures the life-affirming buzz of a romantic gem from 1973's Closing Time, the prime of Waits' boozy, beautiful loser period. -- Dan DeLuca

Strange Ranger

"Remembering the Rockets"

(Tiny Engines 1/2)


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