The Silver Hearts The Silver Hearts Play Rain Dogs

Ordinarily, the prospect of a group paying homage to a classic album by reproducing it, track for track, can fill one with dread. The marriage of Peterborough's roots-rock orchestra the Silver Hearts and Tom Waits’s masterwork, Rain Dogs (released exactly 20 years ago), is a happy one, however. The inventive and widescreen soundscapes of the Silver Hearts have previously elicited Waits comparisons, while their two acclaimed original albums have established their credibility. Here, they treat Tom's tunes with respect, but not slavish reverence. The album was recorded live at two Toronto shows (the Rivoli and the Annex Theatre), and this helps establish a mood of intimacy. Eleven of the twelve Hearts take a lead vocal turn, and this gives the disc more vocal variety than the original. Two indie rock heroes, Al Tuck and Andre Ethier (the Deadly Snakes), guest; the former with a spooky spoken-word take on "9th & Hennepin,” and the latter with a persuasive interpretation of the moody ballad "Blind Love.” The rather unhinged burlesque/cabaret/carnival feel of the original record is recreated effectively via the instrumental skills of the Silver Hearts. Tools at their disposal range from Theremin, sousaphone and trumpet to dobro, pedal steel and accordion, and all are used ably. The result is a work sure to please both Silver Hearts and all but the purist of Waits fans. (Banbury Park)