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Yet another strong set of songs from John Hiatt, one of music’s survivors both physically and creatively —The Open Road offers arguably his most pure and edgy music in some time.

Aided by his road band of Kenny Blevins (drums), Patrick O’Hearn (bass) and Doug Lancio (electric guitar) all eleven tracks are new and with the likes of ‘Like A Freight Train’ imbued with rich, dusky flavours of the American South coupled with the hedonism of such rousing fare as the blues rocking ‘My Baby’ (that fires the passion in his voice and lyrics like nobody’s business) and rubber burning classic early rock‘n’roll sounding ‘Hauling’ Hiatt and the boys are in great form. This is Hiatt at his best; lyrically and instrumentally as he kicks down a few doors and gets to press one’s buttons —the latter with its simple, effective, 1950s rhythm he cranks it up like only he can as the innocence of youth is captured and the lid stamped down tight. With a voice that barks out the lyrics blue collar style, Hiatt is one of music’s greats and, like a good many of my heroes he inevitably sounds at his best when supported by a lean, keen and stripped down set of musicians.

The cast of personnel used totals just four (and sound like more) with those noted above plus himself who, produced the record playing acoustic, electric guitar and vocals. Recorded in a converted garage during the summer of last year Hiatt gained the inspiration for the album looking through the rear view mirror of life.
On utilising some splendid guitar grooves Hiatt speaks of the country of his birth on ‘Homeland’ and, with his tones possessing a pleading edge the listener can’t ignore him as he ploughs his furrow aided by some guitar riffs akin to the pioneering slick instrumental pop groups of the 1960s. For anyone who enjoys great electric lead guitar music of a full-bodied but tempered nature there is little need to look any farther. ‘What Kind Of Man’ takes few prisoners as he cranks it up and moves over to rock‘n’roll to ignite the flame of love and his passion to set the cornfield ablaze.

As for the mellow, river dredging of the soul he edges relatively slowly through ‘Fireball Roberts’ —that speaks of his love of feeling the road beneath him as he drives his 57 Ford and of how it compares to his love it spits and crackles without ever erupting into flames. Slightly keener and sparked with energy we have the reflective ‘Go Down Swingin’ —then with him looking at the lives close to him and have passed on ‘Movin’ On’ smoulders and evokes imagery of precious days kept on tap in his memory bank.

When it comes to the title track John goes down to the deep south for ‘The Open Road’ and never looks back, and with solid all-round musicianship, harmony vocals it has all that is required to utilise his foot-loose and rambling lyrics in the best possible way. Another to impress greatly is the restless, lead guitar fired ‘What Kind Of Man’ —containing the lyrics ‘I cheated on my love / I cheated on my taxes’ followed by ‘What kind of man do you think I am, babe/ One twist and I would do it all over again’. When it comes to writing songs about cars, women, true-life emotions and a burning desire of the road Hiatt is forever at the front of the grid.
Maurice Hope

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September 2018

The Devil Makes Three
70 pts.
Chains Are Broken
New West
Jimmy LaFave
65 pts.
Peace Town
Music Road Records
Malcolm Holcombe
48 pts.
Come Hell Or High Water
Gypsy Eyes Music
Cody Canada & the Departed
47 pts.
Blue Rose Records
Jeffrey Foucault
43 pts.
Blood Brothers
Blueblade Records
The War And Treaty
42 pts.
Healing Tide
Thirty Tigers
Martha Fields
40 pts.
Dancing Shadows
The Weight Band
35 pts.
World Gone Mad
Must Have Music
David Olney
32 pts.
This Side Or The Other
Black Hen Music
The Black Sorrows
32 pts.
Citizen John
Blue Rose Records
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis
31 pts.
Wild Wild Wild
Bloodshot Records
Hadley McCall Thackston
28 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
Nathan Bell
28 pts.
Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth
Angry Stick
Curse Of Lono
26 pts.
As I Fell
Submarine Cat Records
Ryan Martin
25 pts.
Gimme Some Light
High Moon
Stephen Simmons
25 pts.
Locke Creek Records
Jason McNiff
23 pts.
Joy And Independence
At The Helm Records
Jim Lauderdale
23 pts.
Time Flies
Yep Roc
Kevin Gordon
23 pts.
Tilt and Shine
Crowville Media
Eliza Gilkyson
21 pts.
Red House Records
Boz Scaggs
20 pts.
Out Of the Blues
Concord Records
20 pts.
Among The Ghosts
Thirty Tigers
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
20 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
The Jayhawks
17 pts.
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels
Lori McKenna
16 pts.
Cn Records

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