Tom Waits is an American original no matter how you slice him. His music is bold and eclectic, with influences as far reaching as Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, and Howlin' Wolf. Waits himself crafts songs of boozy intelligence with no discernible direct influence; no one else can sing Tom Waits' songs but Waits himself (as Scarlett Johansson deftly proved on her ill-advised Tom Waits cover album). Whether his gruff voice is crooning over a soaring trumpet (Somewhere) or whispering over a jangly samba (Jockey Full of Bourbon), Waits is 100% always no one else but himself. It is a testament of Waits' uncalculated coolness that he is the only artist who could fuel an all night bender with aplomb (a lot of his songs are about drinking...) and just as easily lay the soundtrack down for the morning after: full of regret, unfulfilled wishes, and some broad you met at a bar, took home, and you passed out before she took off her coat.
Tom Waits' new album Bad As Me is out now, and good gravy, its terrific.