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John Hiatt: Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns
Small town america at its best
Colm O Hare, 31 Aug 2012
One of the great American voices of the last 30 years, John Hiatt is not only a terrific singer and peerless songwriter but also a distinctive slide guitarist. Though his songs have been recorded by everyone from Dylan and Clapton to Bonnie Raitt and Iggy Pop, he remains a musicians’ musician, arguably best known for his work with Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe in Little Village, and for his writing credits (Trivia fans: his classic, Bring The Family was Larry Mullen’s favourite album of 1987).
Recorded with his touring band, Dirty Jeans… is a gritty, guitar-driven, rock ‘n’ roll record that is a sort of a love-hate tribute to smalltown America. It kicks off with ‘Damn This Town’, a smouldering stew of anger and regret, the mood temporarily calmed by ‘Til I Get My Loving Back’, a classic Hiatt ballad in the tradition of his earlier classics like ‘Lipstick Sunset’ and ‘Across The Borderline’. He goes down an acoustic country blues route on ‘All The Way Under’, while elsewhere the intensity on the Springsteen-esque slow-burner ‘Don’t Wanna Leave You Know’ is another highlight. In contrast, ‘I Love That Girl’ is almost sunshine power pop, while the rollicking, ‘Detroit Made’ – an homage to the classic Buick Electra 225 – lightens the mood once again.
The serious business of moving through the American heartland, both emotionally and physically, is explored on songs like ‘Train To Birmingham’ and ‘Adios To California’, the lyrics of which lend the album its title – and where he sings about “eating donuts and reading Twain.”
Not so much a return to form (it never left him) but yet another great record from a true American original.