From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by one critic as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months and then taken outside and run over with a car."
Swordfishtrombones is one of his more experimental albums. It changed the directon of Waits, moving away from the traditional piano-and-strings ballad sound of his 1970s output towards a number of styles largely ignored in pop music, including primal blues, cabaret stylings, rumbas, theatrical approaches in the style of Kurt Weill, tango music, early country music and European folk music as well as the Tin Pan Alley-era songs that influenced his early output. He also recorded a spoken word piece, "Frank's Wild Years," influenced by Ken Nordine's "word jazz" records of the 1950s. Apart from Captain Beefheart and some of Dr. John's early output, there was little precedent in popular music.