Review : John Hiatt - The Open Road
LatimesblogsJohn Hiatt's music has frequently had issues of family at or near the core. That's true of his latest album, but the perspective reaches beyond primary relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, to take on bigger questions of heritage and legacy.
That's a big chunk to bite off, but as one of rock's most astute singer-songwriters of the last 40 years, Hiatt brings considerable insight and his characteristic wry humor to the task.
At 57, Hiatt doesn't have much time for boy-meets/loses-girl scenarios. He's sharing the explorations of a man recognizing his weaknesses ("Like a Freight Train") and acknowledging his debt to those who've come before ("Homeland") on the way to discovering his core values ("Go Down Swingin' ").
Not that he bypasses the four-letter word that is "love." In "What Kind of Man," as he's been throughout his estimable career, he's far more interested in plumbing his own nefarious attitudes than finding someone else on whom to affix blame for his troubles: "You see the man who loves you/You see the man you love/But I have hidden claws/Inside these gloves."...full text
AllmusicIndiana-born John Hiatt is an unlikely but enthusiastic champion of the Midwestern work ethic -- he's been making records since 1974, but 2010's The Open Road is his sixth studio effort since the dawn of the new millennium, and it sounds like the work of a man who isn't about to stop doing this work anytime soon. Like 2008's Same Old Man, The Open Road was recorded at Hiatt's home studio, and while he and his road band (Doug Lancio on guitar, Patrick O'Hearn on bass, and Kenny Blevins on drums) conjure up a lean, soulful groove on these sessions, the mood is easygoing and almost casual, which easily suits the bluesy tone of these songs. Time keeps adding a little more grit to Hiatt's voice with each passing year, and he's smart enough to use it in his favor, with the sandy texture of his instrument adding weight and gravity to tunes like "Like a Freight Train" (in which he's bad enough to steal his mom's morphine), "Haulin'" (a road tune that plays like a Dixie-fried Chuck Berry variant), and "What Kind of Man" (another tale of a morally dubious character with shady habits), though the vocals are also a bit lower in the mix than usual this time out. Hiatt's voice and sneaky but literate lyrical style are also a fine match for Lancio's guitar work, full of sliding figures and well-punctuated string bends, and the steady, rock-solid roll of the rhythm section pushes the songs along without forcing them to move faster or harder then they want. And as a songwriter, Hiatt remains one of the best craftsmen in his field; if he doesn't sound inspired as often as he once did on albums like Bring the Family and Slow Turning, the tunes remain slinky and evocative and his stories of men either succumbing to or trying to overcome their lesser instincts still bear the ring of truth and never sound rote. John Hiatt's muse hasn't stopped keeping him on task, and the work he's doing remains satisfying, and anyone who can crank out an album as good as The Open Road every 18 months or so would be well advised to keep up the good work....full text
PopmattersThe last we heard from John Hiatt, he was singing “Let’s Give Love a Try”, the final tune from 2008’s Same Old Man. On that song, Hiatt admitted, “Sometimes I don’t like being where I am”, a notion that Hiatt has explored for much of his going-on-40-year career as a singer-songwriter. Calling himself “old” (sort of) in the title of that record marked a transition of sorts for a rascal like Hiatt, who was 55 when Same Old Man was released. It makes sense that Hiatt would feel road-weary at this point, bearing the experience of relentless writing, recording, and touring across four decades of personal and professional ups and downs. And, indeed, Hiatt sounded ragged on much of Same Old Man; Hiatt’s voice, of course, has long been the source of family debates, but on his last album, he sang as though a dishrag was stuck in his larynx.
Despite signs of wear and tear, Hiatt’s alacrity for writing great melodies and unshitty lyrics was solidly intact, and in “Let’s Give Love a Try”, he sings “I got just enough left to wanna see what’s next”. Sure, he was talking about his capacity for new love, but it’s hard not to consider a broader view for this journeyman and to wonder what Hiatt has left to say as an artist and where he goes from here. The answer to those questions comes with The Open Road, Hiatt’s 18th studio album, a cycle of songs that finds him reclaiming his status as a rascally rambler, kicking out ahead of the rest, and mythologizing the highway and its machines with more urgency than anyone since ‘78-era Springsteen.
The opening track and title cut starts with a squalling guitar riff, signaling that, musically, the record will be Hiatt’s meanest, leanest platter in a decade. He’s backed by Doug Lancio on guitar, Patrick O’Hearns on bass, and longtime cohort Kenneth Blevins on drums, and this quartet makes for a gritty set, one almost entirely free of additional instrumentation or overdubs or other studio futzing. The result is an album that catches Hiatt and the boys playing live in the studio, where they provide a conversant, propulsive boogie to Hiatt’s desperate road songs. Part of that back-to-basics return also allows for some of Hiatt’s bluesiest turns—the middle section of the record slows to a series of electric, third-verse-same-as-the-first blues songs....full text
John Hiatt Album Reviews
Sweetslyrics Top 20 Artists
John Hiatt Lyrics
Do you think money can buy happiness?