Is Tom Waits going punk?

Tom Waits, the gravelly-voiced troubadour of lowlife malaise (“Frank’s Wild Years,” “Heartattack & Vine”), will soon announce a deal with Epitaph Records, the Los Angeles label best known for promoting such post-punk bands as Rancid, Pennywise, and NOFX. A source close to the singer confirms that Waits is negotiating a one-record contract with the label and that a formal announcement should be made within two weeks.

Waits, whose varied career includes more than 18 albums and numerous acting jobs (“Short Cuts,” “The Fisher King”), has been in record-label limbo since he completed 1993’s “The Black Rider,” the final album in a seven-album contract with Island Records. (“Beautiful Maladies,” a 23-song compilation of the singer’s Island years, will be released on June 16.) While there’s no word yet on the creative direction Waits will take on his Epitaph debut, don’t expect to see him stage-diving at this summer’s testosterone-fueled Warped tour with label mates Rancid and NOFX.

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