Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards is a limited edition three CD set by Tom Waits, released by the ANTI- label on November 17, 2006 in Europe and on November 21, 2006 in the United States (see 2006 in music).
The set is a collection of 24 rare and 30 brand new songs. Each disc is intended to be a separate collection in itself; the first disc with the more roughcut rock and blues cuts, the second the more melancholy tunes and ballads, and the third disc having the more experimental songs & spoken word pieces. Although the liner notes claim "56 songs, of which 30 are new", there are only 14 songs on the collection which can readily be found on other albums. Waits has described the collection as
A lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner, about 60 tunes that we collected. Some are from films, some from compilations. Some is stuff that didn't fit on a record, things I recorded in the garage with kids. Oddball things, orphaned tunes.
The Orphans Tour was conducted in support of the album prior to its release.
On the decision to organize the songs into three themed albums, under the titles Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards, Waits said in interview:
It was just a big pile of songs. It's like having a whole lot of footage for a film. It needs to be arranged in a meaningful way so it will be a balanced listening experience. You have this big box with all these things in it and it doesn't really have any meaning until it's sequenced. It took some doing. There's a thematic divide, and also pacing and all that. There are different sources to all these songs and they were written at different times. Making them work together is the trick
Brawlers, the most rock and blues-orientated of the three collections, contains songs covering themes ranging from failed relationships ("Lie to Me", "Walk Away"), floods and subsequent havoc ("2:19"), and a song about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ("Road to Peace"); and incorporates musical styles such as bluesy gospel ("Ain't Goin' Down to the Well", "Lord I've Been Changed"), sentimental tunes ("Lucinda", "Sea of Love")
Bawlers is comprised of mostly downtrodden numbers, replacing the hope of ballads on previous albums with resignation (notably "Bend Down the Branches", "Little Drop of Poison" , "Fannin Street", "Little Man", and "Widow's Grove"). The track "Down There by the Train" was written by Waits for Johnny Cash, and was first released on Cash's first American Recordings album. Waits claims to have originally intended to call this part of the compilation Shut Up and Eat Your Ballads .
Bastards is concerned with Waits' more experimental musical styles, opening with an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's poem "What Keeps Mankind Alive?" (music by Kurt Weill) and continuing on "Children's Story", which is en excerpt of Robert Wilson's production of Georg Büchner's unfinished 1837 play Woyzeck, the score of which Waits wrote and later released as his Blood Money album. The disc contains other literary adaptations, including a Charles Bukowski poem about enlightenment ("Nirvana") and two songs, "Home I'll Never Be" and "On the Road", originally penned by Jack Kerouac.
The album was released to mostly very positive reviews. It ranked #2 on Metacritic's Top 30 albums of 2006 , just behind Savane by Ali Farka Toure, and was nominated for the 2006 Shortlist Music Prize and the 2007 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Some copies of the initial "limited edition" are autographed by Waits.
A limited amount of other copies came with a special vinyl single, including the songs "Lie to me" and "Crazy about my baby".