This is a rockin' album that reminded me of Perfectly Good Guitar at times, but also of Bring the Family.
I've got used to only really liking about half the tracks of John's recent albums. Well, liking them enough to put them on my iPod anyway. The Open Road is no different in this respect, but none of the tracks are bad. Some are just a bit too heavy for me.
The title track is a fairly generic JH song that I found a little dull. The second track has a good bass line but is a bit long. For me the album doesn't really get going until Like a Freight Train, which is probably my favourite track. This is a very sparse bluesy track that's John Hiatt at his best. As always, the lyrics are just great (he never has let us down in this respect) and it amazes me he continues to come up with fresh phrases after all these years. Some of his lyrics still take you by surprise.
I like most of the other songs well enough. The ones going on my iPod are 'My Baby' (terrific lyrics on this especially), Homeland, Wonder of Love, and Movin' On. Movin' On deserves mention as a classic example of why JH is such a great songwriter.
Others have mentioned that the production on the album isn't great and it isn't. Having said that, if you put it on a good hi-fi and crank up the volume you can kind of see why it sounds the way it does. And it sounds fine, oddly enough, through phones on my iPod. Still, would it have done any harm to record this to at least the standard of his albums from the eighties? Perhaps it's down to money. What I can't excuse is the horrible crackling distortion on track three that renders it impossible to listen to. A bad pressing perhaps?
Well, one day John Hiatt will stop giving us this annual gift and we'll be sorry. So I can forgive many things and I'm happy that his voice is still mostly up to the task of howling out these songs. He must have vocal chords of steel.