San Francisco's Bone Cootes has a touch of the Tom Waits devil in his music. The bartender at SF's 500 Club doesn't sound like he's been pickling his vocal cords in the strong stuff since infancy, but there's still the aura of a quirky, carnival-Americana songwriter in his work that makes him sound a lot like the experimental-narrative king. Cootes possesses a talent for the sonically offbeat, pairing up for tours with Mojo Nixon, Robyn Hitchcock, Chris Whitley, and Chuck Prophet among others. On his second album, Mock Piehole, the smoky-throated singer brings in a motley orchestra of trombones, organ, saxophone, toy piano, bass, and percussion to round out his woozy guitar work, creating darkly colorful soundtracks for his humorous depictions of city living. From his smartass wisecracks about whiny dot-commers and Bay Guardian sermons to his stories of late nights with Reno's finest, Cootes is a skilled storyteller for the cynical set, and his observations are just as entertaining as his lounge-folk instrumentals.
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