NEW COAT OF PAINT: THE SONGS OF TOM WAITS(MANIFESTO)

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NEW COAT OF PAINT: THE SONGS OF TOM WAITS(MANIFESTO)

Almost any music fan can appreciate Tom Waits' artful songwriting and masterful lyricism -- it's his voice, which sounds like a pit bull attempting to bark fiercely after some joker spiked its water dish with vodka, that has relegated him to cult-favorite status. On New Coat of Paint, a remarkable lineup of performers lend their unique styles and universally more accessible vocals to some of Waits' finest tunes. From Screamin' Jay Hawkins' menacing rendition of "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard" to Neko Case's touching version of "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis," these selections span an impressive range of musical styles and emotional content. Andre Williams and Lydia Lunch speak most of their vocals, putting the focus on Waits' expert storytelling ability, while Eleni Mandell, Carla Bozulich, and Lee Rocker sing smoothly over sultry songs. Each of these 14 tracks is excellent, and the sequencing is flawless, with Floyd Dixon's bluesy take on the deceptively sunny "Blue Skies" providing the perfect end note. Taken as a whole, New Coat of Paint is the kind of relentlessly classy and high-quality tribute to a legend that puts even Hall of Fame initiation ceremonies and Oscar montages to shame.

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