On his latest release, Tom Waits channels both prison junkies and disabled vets bitterly spouting out their frustrations and temptations. Starting off with the blues-driven horns of "Chicago," Waits veers hard into what I can only describe as a sort of high plains "Marty Robbins on acid" sound. The whole album is tinged with the feel of a romantic South Texas border town hosting a bevy of downtrodden idealists scoring dime bags. A sound not too foreign to local Texas music legend Augie Meyers, whose signature organ and accordion appear on songs like "Raised Right Men" and "Pay Me." The closing number, "New Year's Eve," sums up both the album and the musician perfectly, mixing the traditionally maudlin melodies with loose chaotic imagery of broken derelicts hustling through the mess that is their own lives. While hardcore fans will love the album no matter what, it's not his strongest release. However, it retains elements of everything he has done from his early acoustic years to Swordfish Trombones to Rain Dogs and beyond, legitimizing his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet again.
★★★ (out of 5 stars)