A tiny piece of guilt that I live with: One time, when looking for some covers of “Somewhere” from West Side Story, I decided to give Tom Waits’ version a go. After the beautiful swell of instruments in the intro, Tom’s gravelly vocals kicked in, and I burst out laughing because he sounded like Rowlf from the Muppets.
That one incident does not speak to whole of Tom Waits’ catalog, because I, like just about everyone else, love his songs. That’s where Jeffrey Butzer comes in, with the tribute album The Piano is Firewood: The Music of Tom Waits. Joined by Tom Cheshire on vocals, the album pours the slinky, smoky haze of a barroom right into your ears.
The Piano is Firewood is non-stop and engaging; the album was recorded live at The Earl and is a stunning live production. Butzer and his band’s instrumentals compliment Cheshire’s singing, blending spaghetti western sensibility with the guttural Waits’ sound that you’d swear were claimed in a séance if he weren’t living anymore.
If you were there that night, experience this great set again—and if you weren’t, experience it—by snagging The Piano is Firewood via download off of Butzer’s bandcamp page.