Tuesday, December 16, 2014

mule variations

Tom Waits rode his junkyard jalopy 'til the wheels came off and plowed a raw and ragged folk blues with the ebb and flow of this diamond that wants to stay coal.    It had been five years since his last album, 'The Black Rider'which featured studio recordings of songs from the musical he had composed three years earlier.  In the meantime, he appeared in films (Robert Altman's 'Short Cuts' and Jim Jarmusch's 'Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere in California'), worked with Gavin Bryars on a reworking of  'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet', did the music for the Oscar winning animated short film 'Bunny'.  and left Island Records for the ANTI- subsidiary of Epitaph Records.  

'Mule Variations' was his first release for the new label.  The album features Tom Waits on vocals, guitar, piano, organ, pump organ, percussion, chamberlin, and optigan;   Andrew Borger on drums and percussion;   Ralph Carney on trumpet, sax, alto-sax, bass clarinet, and reeds;   Les Claypool and Dalton Dillingham III on bass;   Greg Cohen on bass and percussion;   Linda Deluca-Ghidossi on violin;   Joe Gore and Larry LaLonde on guitar;   Chris Grady on trumpet;   John Hammond and Charlie Musselwhite on blues harp;   Stephen Hodges and Jeff Sloan on percussion;   Smokey Hormel on guitar, dobro, chumbus & dousengoni;   Jacquire King on programming;   Brain Mantia and Christopher Marvin on drums;  Nik Phelps on bari sax;   DJ M. Mark "The III Media" Reitman on turntable;   Larry Rhodes on contrabassoon;   Marc Ribot on guitar, lead guitar, and guitar solo:   Larry Taylor on bass, guitar, and rhythm guitar;  and the Wings Over Jordan Gospel, Bali Eternal from turntable samples.   The sessions at Prairie Sun Recording Studios in Cotati, California were produced by Kathleen Brennan and Tom Waits.  

Waits would reveal:   "My wife Kathleen and I collaborated on just about all of [the songs]. Of the sixteen songs that are now on the record, we wrote ten or eleven together. We've been working together since Swordfish... I'm the prospector, she's the cook. She says 'you bring it home, I'll cook it up'.   I think we sharpen each other like knives. She has a fearless imagination. She writes lyrics that are like dreams. And she puts the heart into all thins. She's my true love. There's no one I trust more with music, or life. And she's got great rhythm, and finds melodies that are so intriguing and strange. Most of the significant changes I went through musically and as a person began when we met. She's the person by which I measure all others. She's who you want with you in a foxhole. She doesn't like the limelight, but she is an incandescent presence on everything we work on together...Mainly the only reasons to write new songs is because you're just tired of the old ones. Throw something out and get another one. It wasn't like a lightning bolt. For me, it just kind of starts with something amusing. Something amuses me, and I let it pass through my mind, along with a lot of other things. Hundreds of melodies and ideas go through your head when you're not writing. You just let them wash over you. When we start writing we put up a little dam and start catching them. It's the old butterfly net theory...Pianos have to be in the right room. Most studios are designed to keep the outside world out, and they rely heavily on baffling and carpeting and all kids of architectural devices on the wall to shape sound waves, and whatnot. I don't go in for it, myself. We've got a concrete room with a wood ceiling, and we got a great sound. We just brought the piano from home and moved it in. I gave it to Kathleen a long time ago for a birthday present. It's a Fischer from New York. We use it to catch the big ones...I don't know, I guess it's where I keep coming back to. As an art form, it has endless possibilities, as an ingredient or a whole meal. Definitely part of the original idea was to do something somewhere between surreal and rural. We call it surrural. That's what these songs are -- surrural. There's an element of something old about them, and yet it's kind of disorienting, because it's not an old record by an old guy...Sometimes you have to take stuff out to let other stuff shine better. We talk about it. Flip for it sometimes. I'd like to do a record with twelve songs, but I just couldn't let go of all those songs. I didn't know which were the best songs out of 25."

'Mule Variations' went to number thirty-six in New Zealand; thirty in the US; twenty-two in France; seventeen in Canada; thirteen in Australia; twelve in the Netherlands; eleven in Finland; nine in the UK;  seven in Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland;  four in Germany;  two in Belgium;  and number one in Norway.  'Mule Variations' won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.   He had previously won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album for 'Bone Machine'.  



"Big In Japan"

"Hold On" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Performance.

"Cold Water"

"What's He Building?"

"Take It With Me"

"Come On Up To The House"

 'Mule Variations' 
full album:


All songs written and composed by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan unless otherwise noted. 

1. "Big in Japan"     4:05
2. "Lowside of the Road"     2:59
3. "Hold On"     5:33
4. "Get Behind the Mule"     6:52
5. "House Where Nobody Lives"   Waits 4:14
6. "Cold Water"     5:23
7. "Pony"   Waits 4:32
8. "What's He Building?"   Waits 3:20
9. "Black Market Baby"     5:02
10. "Eyeball Kid"     4:25
11. "Picture in a Frame"     3:39
12. "Chocolate Jesus"     3:55
13. "Georgia Lee"     4:24
14. "Filipino Box Spring Hog"   Waits 3:09
15. "Take It with Me"     4:24
16. "Come on Up to the House"     4:36

 bonus tracks
17. "Buzz Fledderjohn"   Waits 4:14
18. "Big Face Money"   Waits, Casey Waits 0:38

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