Tom Waits’ voice has been described as “how you’d sound if you drank a quart of bourbon, smoked a pack of cigarettes and swallowed a pack of razor blades ... Late at night. After not sleeping for three days.”
And that came from a fan.
The singer/songwriter, a cult figure best known for songs covered by Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles and Rod Stewart, would seem an odd choice for a tribute performance from some of Charleston’s best female singers.
But that’s what makes the Women & Waits Show, set for 8 p.m. Friday at the Charleston Music Hall, such an intriguing prospect.
Vocalists Lindsay Holler, Jordan Igoe, Aisha Kenyetta, McKenzie Eddy, Hazel Ketchum, Ann Caldwell and Lauren Cahill will put their own twists on Waits’ songs, which contain elements of rock, folk, blues, jazz and vaudeville filtered through his catalogue of seedy characters and dark places.
“It’s an opportunity to reinterpret his songs, really without any effort,” said Holler, who cites Waits as an influence and helped organize the show. “There’s not too many women around who can duplicate what he does, and I don’t think that’s what we are going for.
“I enjoy getting a different interpretation of a song, which will sort of inevitably happen when you have someone with such a distinctive voice like Tom Waits.”
Holler said the artists will enjoy a wide latitude when it comes to reimagining Waits’ songs, which include “Jersey Girl” (covered by Springsteen), ‘‘Ol’ ’55” (done by the Eagles’ on their “On the Border” album) and “Downtown Train,” a hit for Rod Stewart in 1989.
“We’re giving everyone a lot of free rein to do what they want to do with it,” Holler said. “And if you are a fan of Tom Waits’ music, you will get the spirit of the music with a little bit of a different twist.”
Underneath his throaty vocals, the 65-year-old Waits has built a genre-defying songlist. He was nominated for Grammy Awards in 2000 for best contemporary folk album and best male rock vocal performance for the same album, “Mule Variations,” which also featured rap influences and a turntablist.
That sets up well for the “Women & Waits” list of singers, ranging from Igoe’s alt-country leanings to Eddy’s hip-hop approach and Caldwell’s jazz chops.
House bands for the show will include Holler’s outfit, The Western Polaroids, along with Ketchum’s band, The Harrows. A few surprise guests are expected as well.
Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.charlestonmusichall.com; by calling (843) 853-2252; or at the Charleston Music Hall box office.