From The Desk Of Over The Rhine: “Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader,” Edited By Mac Montandon

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Over The Rhine issued its debut album. The Ohio-based husband-and-wife duo of multi-instrumentalists/vocalists Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have marked the anniversary with new album The Long Surrender, which was produced by Joe Henry at his Garfield House home studio and features an assortment of musicians handpicked for the project by Henry, including Lucinda Williams. Though Detweiler and Bergquist had never worked with Henry or his assembled backing band before, The Long Surrender was finished in less than a week. The fan-funded, 13-track album was just released via OTR’s Great Speckled Dog Records, which the duo named after Elroy, their much-loved Great Dane who passed away last year. Detweiler and Bergquist will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with Detweiler.

Linford: A friend handed us an advance copy of this book back in 2005, and I recently picked it back up to find myself alternately howling with laughter and delighting in the subtle instructions contained therein on finding your own voice as an artist—even if it involves the use of a police bullhorn. Innocent When You Dream is a treasure trove of all things Waits-ian: career-spanning interviews, articles, press releases that Tom wrote back in 1974, and it even contains the occasional Bukowski poem that encapsulates the world Mr. Waits worked so hard to revel in. What better way to spend a dark winter evening.

It’s great fun to read journalists trying to outdo themselves and each other describing Tom’s ruckus:

The salvage yard symphonies made by the guy who wanted to see how far out out there really was and found what he was looking for when he started pounding on brake drums with Howlin’ Wolf’s bones

Or:

No performer ever went so far out of his way to become his songs, to live in the worn-out skin of the broke-down sumbitch who has his mail forwarded to the corner of Pork and Beans.

The thing about Tom Waits that I love is he seems to approach his songwriting always as if it’s both simultaneously a joke and a serious matter. He’s absolutely devoted to his craft, but even if he’s sifting unapologetically through the tragic, you know he’s got a folded piece of paper in his shirt pocket with something scribbled down on it that makes him grin. Jim Jarmusch writes in his introduction to his long interview with Tom contained in the book:

Tom is not only someone whose work has always, for me, been a source of inspiration, but a man for whom I have a very deep, personal respect. I admire him because he remains true to himself in both his work and his life … Tom is, obviously, also a man whose use of language and ability to express himself are completely unique. I spent half the time while with him laughing uncontrollably, and the other half in amazement at the seemingly endless flow of very unusual ideas and observations pouring out of him.

That’s a pretty damn good review of Innocent When You Dream.

Video after the jump.

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