Making a tribute album honoring the music of Tom Waits isn’t a new idea. A few of them have come out over the years, though since Waits’ stature, especially among his fellow artists, it’s actually surprising there haven’t been more. (A good surprise, I have to say, considering that most tribute albums suck out loud.) Speaking of surprises, I just stumbled across a various-artists Waits tribute that might just twist your head off. Shirim Meshumashim — in English, “Used Songs” (which is also the name of a Waits “best-of” compilation a few years back) — features songs by an assortment of Israeli musicians little known outside their own country.
All of the 22 songs, compiled by Israeli producer Guy Hajjaj, are sung in Hebrew. Don’t worry if you’re like this Okie goy boy and don’t understand a word of that language. This only adds an element of mystery and majesty to the music. That’s apparent from the opening of the first song, “Clap Hands” by Yaron Ben Ami & Noa Golandski. The duo recites an a cappella, sing-song nursery rhyme (one of them in a mocking falsetto voice) before starting the actual song. The effect is impressively spooky.
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