With braying saxes and trombones on top of a deep blues boogie, Tom Waits certainly started his 23rd record, Bad As Me, in a verve. Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he seems to play anything but rock and roll. No musical genre is safe from the Tom Waits treatment. ‘Chicago’ is a one of the best new blues songs I’ve heard and a great modern take of the electric Chicago blues from the 1930s and 1940s. Complete with harmonicas, speedy drumming, Keith Richards’ guitar and Waits inimitable growl, it’s a great start to one of the most anticipated records of 2011.
The lyrics are on the move. Waits rips out “The seeds are planted here / But they won’t grow / We won’t have to say goodbye / If we all go / Maybe things will be better in Chicago.” The song is on the go, oscillating, wobbling like a train. It wouldn’t be that far of a reach to say the song is recalling a specific moment in time. Possibly when there was a train-powered migration to Chicago in the 40s and 60s where the blues was created, but wouldn’t that be a bit literal? Regardless, this song is a high powered collection of blues energy. And an addictive one at that.