Nighthawks at the Diner
Nice live in the studio by album by seventies-era singer/songwriter Tom Waits. This is long before Waits became the hoarse, surreal croaker he is now; equal parts Howlin’ Wolf (vocally), Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac (lyrically) and Harry Partch (instrumentally). Tom had recorded three critically acclaimed, yet obscure albums for Asylum. His style was that of a beer-soaked piano man or a jazzbo, bebop speaking grifter or even a sensitive guitar playing singer.
Here – backed by a top-notch minimal jazz unit – he spins yarns about long-lost loves, the virtues of single life, eggs and sausage, phantom truck drivers and the goings-on of a fictitious county that would prefigure Garrison Keillor’s schtick by a year or two.
Waits really knows how to engage an audience and his between song banter takes up nearly half of the album. His portrayal of his stage persona and the characters he introduces us to are closer to a tragic, yet beautiful Diane Arbus photograph than Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks , the album’s namesake. After this album Waits became artier and more surreal, fianlly leaving Asylum for Island records where he continued to explore more fertile grounds artistically and lyrically with his wife, playwrite Kathleen Brennan.
This is probably my favorite Tom Waits album from his early career.