The Eclipse Sessions
New West Records
A Masterclass in Americana and Roots Singing and Songwriting.
I will hold my hands up; my relationship with John Hiatt’s music is actually very limited, as even though I knew ‘of him’ and presumed I’d like his music I didn’t own any of his music until his single Cry To Me arrived back in August; so, it really was with baited breath that I pressed ‘play’ on the office stereo that morning…….phew……ooh…..WOW! Where the first words that sprung to mind as I stopped what I was doing and stared open mouthed at the CD player as the very embodiment of Americana music filled the room for four exquisite minutes; and now nearly two months later I still felt the same excitement as it opened this, John Hiatt’s 23rd (?) studio album in 44 years.
Listening again tonight, second track All The Way to The River still makes me smile; because a month ago I played the album to Big Brother #2 who screwed his nose up when this came on, then looked quizzically at me before muttering….. “This isn’t Randy Newman, is it?” Oh how I laughed; but Hiatt’s grizzled voice and diamond edged lyrics could easily be mistaken for mid-period Newman; more so later on the pithy Poor Imitation of God and Over The Hill; which was an early contender for ‘Favourite Track’ status; but that has lost out to something a lot more personal.
As I don’t know his early work; I’m just loving this album for what it is with the songwriter’s razor sharp observations and red hot melodies on the sadly beautiful and worldly wise Hide Your Tears, Aces Up The Sleeve, Nothing In My Heart and especially the Country-Blues of I Like The Odds of Loving You which features some amazing bottle-neck guitar that made me feel a little feint at one stage.
Any of those songs would have been my ‘Favourite’ on anyone else’s album; as could the velvet edged Robbers Highway which closes the album; such is the gloriously high standard set here; but on an album that is more or less based around Hiatt’s distinctive voice and a laid back acoustic based band; I’m going left of centre for One Stiff Breeze which really rocks the joint and keeps taking me by surprise; as the 66 year old throws down the gauntlet to the scores of pretenders to his lofty throne…….. John Hiatt has still got IT!
While not really a ‘discovery’ for me; but still the first time I’ve heard a complete album by John Hiatt and there’s enough here to make me already buy a ‘Best Of’ to discover what I’ve been missing all these years.
Released October 12th 2018