Crusty, eccentric 68-year-old Tom Waits does things on his own schedule, when he feels like it. Before this morning, we hadn’t heard a new recording from Waits since February of 2016, when he and Lucinda Williams covered a Blind Willie Johnson song. But today, Waits has showed up on a new track. Once again, it’s a cover. And once again, it’s not on his own record.
Marc Ribot, the veteran downtown New York guitarist who’s worked with Waits a number of times over the years, is getting ready to release a new album called Songs Of Resistance 1948 – 2018. It’s a collection of new versions of historical protest anthems. As Pitchfork points out, Waits and Ribot have taken on “Bella Ciao,” an Italian folk song that became an anthem of the rebels fighting against Mussolini and the fascists in the ’40s.
With his grizzled an inimitable voice, Waits puts real feeling into his reading of the song. As ever, Waits can conjure serious, heart-stopping beauty when he feels like it. Today, he feels like it. In a statement, Ribot says, “I played Tom a bunch of the tunes and he immediately bonded with that one. Of course, he brings a certain gravitas to everything he does—my Italian friends say he sounds exactly like an old ‘partigiano’ (resistance fighter)!”
The song comes with a video from filmmaker Jem Cohen, who directed Fugazi’s Instrument documentary. It shows a series images from an anti-Trump protest in Washington, DC, which couldn’t be more appropriate for the material. Check it out below.
BONUS TOM WAITS CONTENT: Here’s a trailer for the Coen brother’s new film, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, in which Waits appears:
Songs Of Resistance 1948-2018 is out 9/14 on Anti-.