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137

John Hiatt and the Goners: Beneath this Gruff Exterior

C. Michael Bailey By

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John Hiatt and Sonny Landreth—nothing, and I mean nothing could be better. John Hiatt has advanced to the forefront of American rock songwriters, a group of musicians that include Warren Zevon, Rodney Crowell, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and John Prine. Sonny Landreth is the stratospheric slide guitarist who knows no near competitor sporting a bottleneck on his/her little finger.



The music—well, this is prime Hiatt. Coming into his own with the release of the perfect Bring the Family (1988), Hiatt began his association with Canton, Mississippi Breakdown Sonny Landreth with his next recording, Slow Turning (1988). Landreth remained with Hiatt through Is Anyone There (1992), rejoining Hiatt for the Tiki Bar is Open (2001) and is now present on the current Beneath this Gruff Exterior (2003). While this recording has the time proven John Hiatt, it does spot a Sonny Landreth that has benefited from his own solo records. The result is the most phenomenal slide guitar technique recording today, a technique that is in ample supply on this new Hiatt offering.



But it is really the Hiatt trademark lyrics that fill in the whole picture. Try on "How Bad’s the Coffee":



...But now I’m runnin’ behind / To get my butt caught up well I need a cup / of the nastiest shit you can find—How bad’s the coffee / how good’s the pie / If you call me hiney / Honey, I’m gonna cry / A whole lotta sugar / A little pinch of salt / You cut my bitter / with your sweet talk...

And that is the light-hearted one.



These are songs of a man reluctant with his fame, iconoclastic in his vision, and extremely gifted, Like John Prine, in making the mundane beautiful and the complex comically simple. Willie Nelson covered the disc closer, " The Most Unoriginal Sin." I suspect we can see why:

What there was left of us / Was all covered in dust and thick skin
Yes some half eaten apple / The whole Sistine Chapel was painted on the head of a pin
Yeh a life long love's worth / Gone up in a smirk / And you didn't even see her waltz in
Now this love is a ghost / Heaven played host / To the most unoriginal sin

At the wedding we smiled / Some devil played white violin
Soon after the chapel she offered me that apple / One bite and I was gone with the wind
Well you needed no proof / For the whole naked truth / Was wearing its infidels grin
And a proud school boys boast / I haven't left his post / For the most unoriginal sin

Now the jukebox is humming / There'll be no shortcomings of men
And I found me this think / To finally sink the skills I've been wallowing in
But once you get started / And true loves departed / You do it over and over again
So tonight I will toast / Whoever comes close / To the most unoriginal sin
So tonight I will toast / Whoever comes close / To the most unoriginal sin

Visit New West Records and John Hiatt on the web.


Track Listing: 1. Uncommon Connection 4:11 2. How Bad's the Coffee 3:56 3. The Nagging Dark 3:154. My Baby Blue 4:35 5. My Dog and Me 3:15 6. Almost Fed Up With the Blues 4:36 7. Circle Back 4:30 8. Window on the World 3:36 9. Missing Pieces 4:06 10. Fly Back Home 4:44 11. The Last Time 4:53 12. The Most Unoriginal Sin 4:15

Personnel: John Hiatt

Title: Beneath this Gruff Exterior | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: New West Records

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