Rating: 3 of 4 Bunnyheads
A Tom Waits album is like a rowdy juke joint take on Dante’s Inferno, brimming with more sinners than a tent revival preacher’s sermon. On Real Gone, Waits once again mines that dark territory most of us would rather forget, painting portraits of the weird and wretched. Using his gruff growl, he alternates between detailed character studies and narratives, explaining the inner workings of a guilty conscience (“Don’t Go Into That Barn”) or spinning a yarn about a twisted carnival (“Circus”) with equal ease. Musically, this album alters his usual formula, forgoing keyboards and instead surrounding Waits’s voice with stripped-down stringed instruments. While that leaves some sections sounding bare and skeletal, most of the album is a nice blend of sinewy string lines and electrified howls that allow the storyteller to take center stage.