Album: Tom Waits

Real Gone, ANTI-
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The Independent Culture

"When the river is low, they find old bones, and when they plow they always dig up chains," sings Tom Waits on the sinister "Don't Go into That Barn". From the sound of Real Gone, he must have been doing some feverish farming of his own, in a dried-up creek bed: like 1999's Mule Variations, this is an album full of troubled ghosts and rustic superstitions, cranky, croaked-out blues, spindly guitars, primitive rhythmic potholes, and what Waits terms "Cubist Funk" - a series of glorious, double-jointed R&B grooves leading from Captain Beefheart's dust-blown desert trailer all the way to Fat Possum's Mississippi base. Using a compact combo of old hands - Larry Taylor on bass and Marc Ribot on guitar - and, except for three tracks featuring his son Casey on drums, mostly eschewing trap drums for the more varied, Moondog-style percussion beds supplied by Brain Mantia, along with his own human-beatbox mouth-percussion, Waits paints a series of grim backwoods tableaux that expose the rotten

"When the river is low, they find old bones, and when they plow they always dig up chains," sings Tom Waits on the sinister "Don't Go into That Barn". From the sound of Real Gone, he must have been doing some feverish farming of his own, in a dried-up creek bed: like 1999's Mule Variations, this is an album full of troubled ghosts and rustic superstitions, cranky, croaked-out blues, spindly guitars, primitive rhythmic potholes, and what Waits terms "Cubist Funk" - a series of glorious, double-jointed R&B grooves leading from Captain Beefheart's dust-blown desert trailer all the way to Fat Possum's Mississippi base. Using a compact combo of old hands - Larry Taylor on bass and Marc Ribot on guitar - and, except for three tracks featuring his son Casey on drums, mostly eschewing trap drums for the more varied, Moondog-style percussion beds supplied by Brain Mantia, along with his own human-beatbox mouth-percussion, Waits paints a series of grim backwoods tableaux that expose the rotten underbelly of the American pioneer myths. The centrepiece is the 10-minute opus "Sins of the Father", in which, against a percussion-speckled atmospheric setting, Waits's Woodbine-rasp vocals build up a suffocating air of ancestral guilt and retribution through charnel-house images. Album of the week, any other week of the year.

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