Track of the Day: 'Mad Tom of Bedlam'

By Stephen Cooke

Past TracksIt's not every artist who can extend their repertoire from centuries-old folk tunes to a Justin Bieber cover; the only similar feat I can think of is British guitar hero Richard Thompson's 1,000 Years of Popular Music project, which goes from madrigals to "Oops, I Did It Again."

But New York-based Charlene Kaye has no problem making that leap, and despite the sophistication she brings to her interpretation of the lyrics of Der Bieber ("I was, like, baby, baby baby, oooh, like, baby, baby, baby, noooo..."), I opted for the older tune, "Mad Tom of Bedlam," which dates back to the early 1600s and was popular enough that Shakespeare drops a reference to it all Tarantino-like in King Lear.

Kaye and her band the Brilliant Eyes jazz up the tune, but not beyond recognition (compare it to this version by neo-folk singer Jolie Holland), as she relates the tale of an inmate of Elizabethan England's notorious Bethlehem Hospital, better known as the asylum Bedlam, and a woman's search for her wayward love. It's all about dynamics here, as Kaye and Co. start off smooth and slinky, building to an explosive climax of abandon and musical madness.



On iTunes: Charlene Kaye and the Brilliant Eyes / "Mad Tom of Bedlam"

And for the randomizer bug:

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/01/track-of-the-day-mad-tom-of-bedlam/69931/