Tom Waits – Bad As Me

The Honourable Tom Waits

Tom Waits trying to find his sound from by Anton Corbijn

Tom Waits trying to find his sound from by Anton Corbijn

Tom Waits came out with a new album on Oct 28th called Bad As Me. I got to listen to it before the release and I have to say I really liked it. It has a distinctive Waits sound of cigarette smoke and hobo throat. He has all the elements, the slow drum cadence, the obscure string instruments accentuating horns and of course Monster Voice. This album has a lot more rock feel to it that older albums and one thing I really like about Tom Waits is that he really takes all the elements that lead up to rock and roll, like jazz, blues and folk, but combines them into something not rock. That’s not to say I don’t like this album but it is an interesting confluence. The title single it great it has Tom cry singing and the distorted guitar taking turns with the trombone to make a melody. It’s upbeat too which really does draw me in more than a slow song; all around a great album.

If you are interested in the instruments he uses, check out this site

It categorizes all the instruments he uses and the song and album on which they appear.  I think it’s amazing how many instruments he includes especially when most band max out at 3. A lot of them also look like World War I torture instruments, which is always a plus.

A few of my favourite Tome waits Songs

  1. Singapore – Sea adventure to a strange land with a group of sketchy sailors
  2. God’s Away on Business – Look at the youtube of cookie monster singing this
  3. Swordfishtrombone
  4. 16 shells from a Thirty-Ought-Six
  5. Ol’55 – I know this a slow one but I like it

This is all I’m going to post you have to discover the rest.

Any other favourites Waits songs? Mash ups?

Old Crow Medicine Show – My Gateway Band

Old Crow Medicine Show

I have to hand it to Old Crow. They made me the Americana fan I am today. When I was in college I first heard wagon wheel and it instantly led me to search for more. I had been listening to a little Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, but I did not have the appreciation for them that I do now. Old Crow although should be given their own credit because of their contribution to Americana and old time music.

Old Crow Medicine Show with Ed Helms taken by Melanie Maxwell |

Old Crow Medicine Show with Ed Helms taken by Melanie Maxwell |


They started put playing as a 5 piece band on the streets of Nashville, and just got bigger from there.  One things they have done amazingly is make old time music very accessible. They have brought back old country and folk songs like Union Maid and Fall on my Knees, and continue to keep their honest old time pickin’ and fiddlin’. To be honest a high school version of me would have walked away at the first sound of twang, and now I’d rather listen to it than anything else.

A few songs to get you started if you haven’t heard them

1. Wagon Wheel – Start off with this one, it’s probably their most popular song and it gets covered regularly. This song was actually taken from a Bob Dylan song that he recorded for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. OCMS and Bob Dylan are both cited as song writers.

2. Fall on My Knees – I didn’t know about this one until my girlfriend showed it to me but it is now one of my favourites. It is an old song but if you search it Old Crow’s version always comes up.

3.  Tell it to Me – This is from their first album and it’s just one of my favourites.

Have a favourite OCMS song? Any band that changed the way you think about music? Leave a comment.

You can learn more about them at




Against the Blue Wall – Epiphone MB200 Banjo

Now, I love guitar, but I also love banjos, violins, basses and other stringed instruments. My Banjo is an Epiphone MB200 which is just a step up from the other entry level banjos. It has a mahogany resonator and neck and a rosewood finger board, nothing out of the ordinary. I personally am a maple fan but you really can’t beat it for the price. It is a lightweight instrument mainly because of the aluminum tone ring, which makes the sound more tinny sounding.  This unfortunately makes it top heavy and a little awkward to play because it has a tendency to dip down. However next time I will probably get a Deering. I have done a few minor upgrades like changing the bridge which have definitely made a difference in tone.

Banjo Head Stock

Banjo Head Stock

I’m still an beginning player, but there are a few things I can say about it. First replace that bridge. I used to get this buzzing sound on the 5th string because I play clawhammer. The first thing I noticed about the tone was that a banjo is loud and twangy. This was one of the reasons that Jass (old time spelling of jazz) bands of the 1920s used banjos a lot and significantly more than guitars, which couldn’t hold their own that well.

Now one thing you have to understand is that I am a guitar player, who went to banjo, and I’m trying to get more into the banjo style but it takes time. I have to say if you like Irish, bluegrass, country or Old time music, the banjo is a worthwhile investment. I am hella glad I bought one.

Significant differences between 5 string banjo and guitar

-open tuning, I use G. If you are a guitarist try playing in open tuning a bit to get the feel of it. I am very                 surprised at how many musicians and guitarist have little to no idea of what open tuning is. If                              you don’t know go google it, or maybe one day I’ll make a post about it.

-high string (drone string) is at the bottom

– all about pickin’

-2 main styles scruggs/bluegrass and clawhammer

-strings vibrate on a taut head

Now the banjo came over from Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a good Bela Fleck documentary where he goes to try to find the origin of the banjo and the way that is it played in different tribes. For a long time it was much more popular than the guitar because bending those guitar sides is hard and costly. Now it is a lot easier but guitars really didn’t catch on until after WW2. Anyway banjos were also cheap to make and you could make one on your own so you didn’t have to buy one. It became the instrument of the poor and of folk music. The banjo is currently experiencing a revival in indie and Americana music. Pretty much my favourite styles.

Epiphone Banjo

Epiphone Banjo- I don't think you can see it on this photo but I do have some wear on the head. Makes me Proud.

Unlike my guitars this is the first banjo I have ever owned and I like playing but there are some things that I would like to see in my next banjo.

1. Maple Neck

2. better tuners and hardware

3. wooden or brass tone ring

4.  Probably no resonator or if it does have a resonator it should because easily removable and not full of sharp unfinished edges like mine right now

What is your dream banjo? if you are a guitarist would you start playing banjo?