I’ve been listening to John Hiatt for nearly four decades. So enamored with his music was I that I wrote a post about him when he turned 54. Since then, I’ve got the albums The Open Road (2010), Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (2011), and Terms of My Surrender (2014).
His sixth album I have on vinyl. Hiatt said, “I always kind of look at Riding with the King (1983) as the first album where I really put it all together.” And that’s probably true. Warming Up to the Ice Age (1985) failed commercially, and Geffen dropped him from the roster. Bring The Family (1987) was his first Billboard 200 album and is probably my favorite.
Slow Turning (1988) has such great songs that several were covered by other artists. Indeed, LOTS of artists have covered his songs, many of which I own. A small list: Sure As I’m Sitting Here (Three Dog Night), Across the Borderline (Willie Nelson), Thing Called Love (Bonnie Raitt), When We Ran (Linda Ronstadt), and Riding With The King (B.B. King and Eric Clapton).
My wife and I saw him at the Troy (NY) Music Hall in 2003.
Here are a dozen John Hiatt tunes. If I were to pick my favorites, almost half would be from Bring The Family.
The Tiki Bar Is Open – the title track. Someone on a video wrote of John that he “has remained a fringe artist all these years despite his incredible songwriting skills and emotive and highly recognizable vocal style. He just keeps putting out amazing stuff year after year.”
Trudy and Dave – Slow Turning. My mom was named Trudy. I had a whimsical thought that mom had run off with another guy. “They’re out of their minds.”
Real Fine Love – Stolen Moments.
Feels Like Rain – Slow Turning.
Crossing Muddy Waters – the title song. I think songs from this acoustic album were performed by Hiatt on A Prairie Home Companion c. 2000.
The Most Unoriginal Sin – Beneath This Gruff Exterior. This was recorded by Willie Nelson in 1993, a full decade before Hiatt put it on the end of an album.
She Loves The Jerk – Riding With The King.
Slow Turning – the title track. Namechecks Charlie Watts.
Shredding The Document – Walk On. The lyrics are a bit dated – Larry King, e.g. – but I LOVE the harmony on the chorus.
Perfectly Good Guitar – the title track. Apparently, this ticked off Pete Townshend for a time.
I Don’t Even Try – Riding With The King. A variation on a familiar pop hook.
Have A Little Faith In Me – Bring the Family. When I made a mixed tape for my now-wife Carol, this was the centerpiece.
My friend Rocco read a biography that he really liked, Have a Little Faith: The John Hiatt Story by Michael Elliott. It is “a long-overdue, in-depth biography of Americana’s most enigmatic characters,” according to the review in Americana UK.
The writer touched on every studio album that Hiatt did and gave some great insight into what made it happen even the one live album, Rocco reports.