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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hard Ground - Michael O'Brien and Tom Waits' new book due soon...

The legendary singer and songwriter Tom Waits is due to publish a book of poetry in collaboration with photographer Michael O’Brien about “those who live on hard ground.”

There are no concrete details as to when the book, titled "Hard Ground", will be published - whispers say on next March, 2011 - but the project has reportedly been conceived as a modern version of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the famous collaboration between writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans, which documented the hardtack lives of dust bowl sharecroppers and was first published in 1941. Rather than Mid-Western farmers, however, Waits and O’Brien’s book should examine the lives of the homeless.

Waits, unlike other contemporary musicians including Billy Corgan and Jewel, has never published a book of poetry before, despite being widely considered one of the greatest American song writers of recent decades. But in recent years Waits has embraced publicity more than he had previously, releasing a triple album, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards, in 2006 and earlier this year endorsing a 78 record player for the Preservation Hall charity in New Orleans.

Michael O’Brien is a photojournalist based in Austin, Texas. O’Brien has won two Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, among other honors. He has contributed photos to Life, Geo, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, National Geographic, Esquire, Fortune and other publications. His celebrity subjects have ranged from Willie Nelson and George Bush. More recently, O’Brien designed and photographed the Apple Power Book campaign.

Waits has long been known for his portrayals of the down and out, hard-luck lives of the homeless, drunks, racetrack enthusiasts, jockeys and carnies, so one can only hope that this latest project bears fruit that retains the flavor of his famed earlier work.

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