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John Hiatt

Terms of My Surrender – 2014 (New West)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by John Hiatt

As he has for decades now, John Hiatt keeps churning out quality live tours based around quality albums and songs that are hard not to love. On his latest, his seventh with his current label and his follow-up to 2012's "Mystic Pinball," Hiatt sounds like he's finally aged into his wise-beyond-his-years voice.

"Are you rolling?" Hiatt is heard asking before "Face Of God" kicks in, a ramshackle crawl that sounds like it was swept off the recording floor from Dylan's "Time Out Of Mind." With plenty of harmonica and instruments creeping in and out, Hiatt gets the most out of this blues jewel. That same style is revisited on the gorgeous "Here To Stay" sounding like Daniel Lanois is somewhere near the soundboard. Yet it's his rather laidback roots-based foundation that gets the album soaring quickly. The breezy "Marlene" could be mistaken for a Jimmy Buffett cover as it warmly saunters along with sweet guitar work complementing it.

Hiatt's gruff pipes makes most of the material gel instantly as is the case with "Wind Don't Have To Worry," which is fleshed out with banjo and backing harmonies. Despite the old-school arrangement and front porch feel, Hiatt is singing about the "thought police coming up to your door...." Meanwhile the ease Hiatt creates "Baby's Gonna Kick" is perfect thanks to some more fine guitar work and a muddy, dirty-sounding harmonica.

There are a few instances where Hiatt sounds like he's forcing things as is the case with "Nothing' I Love," the sparse blues ditty that slowly grows, but never quite finds that money shot. Thankfully Hiatt makes up for that quick mishap with the tender title track that sounds like he recorded it in the garage he sings about. "Sometimes love can be so wrong/Like a fat man in a thong/It shamelessly walks away" Hiatt sings with tongue-in-cheek sincerity. This tone continues with the Randy Newman-leaning "Old People" concerning lineups in stores and "trying to slow down this goddamn world."

Hiatt hopefully won't surrender anytime soon. 


PS: A live DVD is also included featuring some new material, but plenty of classics such as "Slow Turning," "Have A Little Faith In Me" and "Tennessee Plates." An excellent addition to this already strong new record.