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Tom Waits' High-Stakes Wager

waits.jpgdalai.jpgForget Kenny Rogers (and really, please forget Kenny Rogers). The musician best deserving the title “The Gambler” is our favorite Sonoma County rancher, Tom Waits. On July 10, Anti- will release Healing the Divide, the long-anticipated album version of a semi-legendary 2003 benefit concert at Lincoln Center. The concert features four performances by Waits with Kronos Quartet and Greg Cohen, including the previously unreleased “Diamond in Your Mind,” which may be familiar from Solomon Burke‘s version. Other performers on the concert album include the throat-singing Gyoto Tantric Choir, sitarist Anoushka Shankar (Ravi’s daughter who isn’t named Norah Jones), the ubiquitous Philip Glass with kora player Foday Musa Suso, and Tibetan flutist Nawang Kechong in a duo with Navajo flutist R. Carlos Nakai. Internationally renowned impresario the Dalai Lama is the opening act. Sales from the album will support efforts of Healing the Divide, an organization founded by humanitarian and fugitive kisser Richard Gere, to provide health services to Tibetan monks and nuns living in refugee settlements.

That may sound like a safe bet. But as Monica Kendrick of the Chicago Reader has noted, Tom Waits’ sales pitch for the album is a new variation on Pascal’s wager. “I’m no fool,” Waits noted, “It’s a spiritual insurance policy. Hell, at my age, the next group I put together, everyone may be playing a harp. All kidding aside, I owed His Holiness a favor. He did all my papers in school.”

Even Waits’ musical selections for the show hedge his spiritual bets, ranging from “Way Down in the Hole,” a Jesus-thumping gospel blues traditional enough to have been covered by the Blind Boys of Alabama, to the self-explanatory “God’s Away on Business.” As he sings in the latter, “there’s always free cheddar in the mousetrap baby, it’s a deal, it’s a deal.”

From → Cut-Out Bin

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