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John Hiatt's got the blues.
on 15 July 2014
"Terms Of My Surrender" is the twenty-second studio album by John Hiatt, the singer-songwriter with the soulful, gritty voice, and another highlight in a career that already spans four decades. In a bit of a departure from previous albums that slanted towards gravelly country-folk, the 11 tracks on his new record are mainly acoustic blues, with Hiatt even playing harmonica, something he hasn't done in several years.
Among my favorites on this album are the folksy album-opener "Long Time Coming," which is a Springsteen-ish track, with Hiatt starting out acoustically. It slowly grows into full instrumentation with a great guitar solo from Doug Lancio in the middle part, before ending acoustically again. Then you have the thumping back porch blues of "Face Of God," a 12 bar track where Hiatt asks: "How much more suffering, Before you see the face of God," and also makes the harmonica howl. Then you have the cheerful "Marlene," a deceptively simple ditty as exemplified by lyrics like "Marlene, Marlene, when you call my name, Marlene, Marlene, like a summer rain," but it's an incredible catchy and for sure will make "... the blues run and hide."
"Wind Don't Have To Hurry" is a banjo-driven track that also has female backing vocals to flesh out the song (although the "Na Na Na Na" edges close to getting a tad repetitive). The hobo jazz of title track "Terms Of My Surrender," which has some of the wittiest lyrics on the album: "Sometimes love can be so wrong, Like a fat man in a thong" (okay, now to get that image out of my head!) and which is a bit reminisced of Randy Newman. Then you have the gospel-flavored "Old People," a snarky song in which the 61-year old singer-songwriter takes a witty look at the older generation who's running out of time: "Old People are pushy, They don't have much time, They'll shove you in the coffee shop, Cut in front of you in the buffet line."
That's not to say that the understated but powerful "Nobody Knew His Name," the swampy "Baby's Gonna Kick" - again with his own train-whistle harmonica - and the blues-strut of "Nothing I Love," the gospel-influenced blues of "Here To Stay," a melancholy track in which he sings "Leaves are fallin', Winter's on my mind" and album-closer "Come Back Home" aren't great songs. They are. And like good wine, Hiatt's vocals appear to be improving with age. At age 61, he may have lost the top of his vocal register, but his whiskeyed voice suits the bluesy material on this album exceptionally well.
"Terms Of My Surrender" was produced by Doug Lancio, Hiatt's longtime guitarist, and we've got him to thank for challenging John to put his electric guitar aside and play acoustic. It was recorded off the floor with his touring band as in a live setting, and it truly sounds like Hiatt's sitting in your living room and jamming these songs with his band - or maybe a better analogy would be that you're sitting down for a beer in one of those old-style blues clubs, peering through a veil of cigarette smoke at the stage, where Hiatt and The Combo are having a great time. Recommended!