Turns out that trapped inside Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson's porcelain skin is the voice of a canary – in a coal mine.
A worldly alto pops out of those pouty lips, making her decision to release Anywhere I Lay My Head, an album of Tom Waits covers a bit less odd than it might at first seem. Johansson's pipes are surprisingly deep but don't approach the dirt gargle of Waits himself.
But ScarJo is an actress, and Waits's songs are some of the best monologues ever set to music. Cuts like Falling Down come off like a Cambridge girl doing karaoke at the campus bar.
But others achieve poignancy: see Fannin Street, intrepidly plucked from Waits's 2006 three-CD outtakes collection, or album closer Who Are You, which doubles Johansson's voice with producer David Sitek's bass, hinting at a Waits's duet of acceptance.
Overall, it's a pleasure to hear Waits's songs delivered in a voice other than his own, distinct, gruff growl.
The whole too-cool-for-school set is heavily dosed with reverb and electro-swirls, perhaps to cloak Johansson's vocal limitations as much as to add psychedelia.