New West (NW6260)
Has John Hiatt ever released a bad album? I've been trying to keep up with him for 20 or so years now and even his lesser efforts are better than the best of most artists. And when he is particularly inspired, he is pretty much untouchable.
Thankfully, this new one is among his very best, including some memorable songs, a great sound and a tight and rocking band. And what's more, he is in great voice, able to convey passion, anger, reflection, love and humour without missing a step.
The pacing of the album is exemplary, from the gentle moments, notably the simple but beautiful No Wicked Grin and reflective I Just Don't Know What To Say, to the rocking riffs and thumping beats of One Of Them Damn Days and Bite Marks. And, as always, his lyrics are a cut-above the standard that popular music tends to offer. Who else, when looking to convey how sensitive he is, would throw in a line that says 'I'm tender-hearted, ain't no Lee Van Cleef'?
Frankly, I don't know how he keeps up the pace and consistency. This is at least four strong albums in under five years and, given that he generally likes to chop and change bands and sounds for each album, such a level on consistency is remarkable. This album is in one sense unusual for him as he has pretty much kept the same band, production team and studios that worked so well on last year's excellent Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns album (NW6206).
If you've tried and liked a John Hiatt album before, you sure will enjoy this. If not, but would like somewhere to start, this is as good a place as any. It combines the various strengths of his previous albums and if you take to this, you will no doubt want to come back for the rest.
Review Date: October 2012