Release Date: Aug 2, 2011
Record label: New West
Genre(s): Country, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Roots Rock, Country-Rock, Heartland Rock
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John Hiatt’s music has become as comfortable as an old pair of jeans, and like those work pants, he’s still right for the job. Hiatt just writes up a bunch of guitar-driven rock songs with a country blues edge, and sings and picks his way through while making observations on the state of life in America today. There are no surprises on his latest album, his twentieth, other than the fact that Hiatt’s still able to deliver the goods.
Since John Hiatt and the major labels decided to go their separate ways around the turn of the century, his approach to record making has been direct and organic; most of his albums have sounded as if Hiatt and his sidemen put them together without a lot of fuss, placing the emphasis squarely on Hiatt's dependably strong material and tough, flinty vocal style. But 2011's Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns is a more polished and ambitious affair than Hiatt has delivered in years. The sessions were produced by Kevin Shirley, who has previously worked with Aerosmith, the Black Crowes, Dream Theater, and Journey, and though his approach isn't especially intrusive, the sound of this record is certainly more luxurious, with the guitars sounding bigger, the drums booming a bit louder, and strings and keyboards decorating several tracks and the arrangements, gaining a greater sense of drama along the way.
John Hiatt’s new record, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, once again pairs the veteran Hoosier songwriter with his touring combo (drummer Kenny Blevins, guitarist Doug Lancio, and bassist Patrick O’Hearn) for another sweeping sampler of Americana. The album’s black-and-white cover captures Hiatt waiting in front of a small-town, one-room church that’s been boarded up. Boarded up for preservation or to keep others out, you might wonder.
There are a few artists on the planet who can do almost no wrong. They might veer in a direction that’s slightly less appealing than their usual output, or come up with a lyric now and then that doesn’t quite hit its mark. But they’re so good overall, you forgive the small imperfections and love them all the more because it makes them human, instead of untouchably distant.