Deal the cards, roll the dice, if it ain’t that old Chuck E. Weiss. That’s right, the craggy-faced, mop-topped hierophant of the hipster underground (and yes, kids, I’m using the original connotation of “hipster” and not the pathetic thing it’s turned into) is back with a new album called Red Beans and Weiss, and it’s full of stripped-down rock ’n’ roll, R & B, blues, laughs, post-beat cool, hard-earned wisdom, and flashes of sheer insanity.
Most people my age probably first heard of Weiss in 1979 when he popped up on the edges of the national consciousness as the unlikely romantic lead in Rickie Lee Jones’ first hit, “Chuck E.’s in Love.” Of course, those of us who were Tom Waits fans back then had known the name for years. Waits name-checked him on the song “Nighthawk Postcards (From Easy Street)” on the album Nighthawks at the Diner — which also contains the song “Spare Parts I: A Nocturnal Emission,” which Weiss co-wrote — and waxed nostalgically for his company in “I Wish I Was in New Orleans (In the Ninth Ward)” on Waits’ album Small Change.
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