Beneath this Gruff Exterior
It'll Come to You: The Songs of John Hiatt
First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2003, Volume 10, #8
Written by T.J. Simon
Along with Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, John Hiatt is a true American original. One needn’t look any further than his back-to-back masterpiece albums Bring the Family and Slow Turning to recognize his genius. Although he never achieved the massive crossover success of Indiana’s other roots-rock John (Mellencamp, that is), Hiatt is still widely regarded as one of the best contemporary American songwriters alive. With the release of two separate collections of Hiatt’s material — a new studio album and a compilation of classic songs performed by other artists — his fans have cause to rejoice this summer.
Beneath this Gruff Exterior, the new studio album, is the bluesiest effort of Hiatt’s 30-year career, largely due to the slide guitar accompaniment of Sonny Landreth, which creeps through the background of nearly every song. From the current radio single My Baby Blue to the pure pop for pet people My Dog and Me, Landreth’s guitar combines with Hiatt’s gruff vocal growl with engaging results. His band turns in a Cajun shuffle on both Circle Back and Uncommon Connection, and the entire disc is chock full of the absorbing lyrics one would (and should) expect from Hiatt. For newcomers to the Hiatt party, this isn’t necessarily the disc with which I’d start — try Bring the Family first — but the already-converted will be generally pleased with the quality of this new release.
It’ll Come to You: The Songs of John Hiatt isn’t so much a tribute album as it is a collection of Hiatt’s songs that were previously released by other artists. Three of the numbers were recorded specifically for this disc, but most of the songs contained in this package are probably scattered throughout your music collection already. Those unfamiliar with the breadth of Hiatt’s influence over modern roots music will find themselves repeatedly saying, "I had no idea Hiatt wrote that one." Bonnie Raitt’s Thing Called Love? Hiatt’s. Eric Clapton & B.B. King’s Riding with the King? Hiatt’s. Buddy Guy’s Feels Like Rain? Hiatt’s. Throw in Nick Lowe’s She Don’t Love Nobody and Willie Nelson’s The Most Unoriginal Sin for good measure, and the record company has cooked up one fine compilation. Weak moments include tracks by Freddie Fender, Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, and Buddy & Julie Miller, but at least they’re singing songs by John Hiatt, so how bad could they be?
Beneath this Gruff Exterior —
It'll Come to You: Songs of John Hiatt — ½
Beneath this Gruff Exterior is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
It'll Come to You: The Songs of John Hiatt is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box