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Scarlett Johansson 

Anywhere I Lay My Head (Rhino/Atco)

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It's easy to argue that actress Scarlett Johansson treads sacred ground on Anywhere I Lay My Head, her tribute to avant-pop legend Tom Waits. It's certainly a ballsy move for her to cover 10 of Waits' songs on her debut album. But TV on the Radio's David Sitek (who arranges and produces) saves it from complete catastrophe, reformatting Waits' quirky style into something dark, atmospheric, and haunting — in a way that's different from Waits' version of dark, atmospheric, and haunting.

The deep-voiced Johansson evokes hazy distance throughout Anywhere I Lay My Head, but listeners will still connect with the nuances — a banjo lining "Falling Down," the nursery chimes of "I Wish I Was in New Orleans." Still, Waits' signature voice and lyricism are missed, even as the album recontextualizes the pliable material. Yes, it occasionally comes off as a novelty piece. But sometimes novelties, like the equally supple Silly Putty, can be loads of fun.

Speaking of CD Review

More by Michael D. Ayers

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