My love affair with Tom Waits began in 2000 or 2001, I think. See, back in those days, people would store .mp3's on webservers and I was a lurker in a community that would find directories on those servers and post them on a bulletin board. The site exploseek.com was created by those on the board to facilitate finding music and music videos that were out there in the cloud, before there was even a proper cloud.
I had always heard good things about Tom Waits. Someone posted a couple of directories with the albums Rain Dogs and Blue Valentine in them. I downloaded them and absolutely fell in love with Rain Dogs. Eventually, I acquired all of his albums and eagerly snatch up everything he releases, even a mix CD he made for Mojo magazine. For my money, it doesn't get much more Americana than Tom Waits.
This track from the great Mule Variations is a sparse-sounding song about a vagabond who prefers "ridin' the rails" to being tied down. It seems like it could be set in the Great Depression, but there's a line about Vietnam vets panhandling.
There's a full band playing the song, but everyone plays it clean, there isn't even any overdrive on the solo. The cowbell is nice and loud in the mix. Its metallic ring rises above all the other instruments in the minimalist mix.
The Bell Score: 3.98642