Still beaming from the experience of seeing John Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band live earlier this week. This song was one of several that Hiatt performed off his new album Leftover Feelings. He introduced it by saying that when he first moved to Tennessee from Indiana as a young man, he got to know a women who absolutely loved music, and would listen to it all the time on a little transistor radio tuned to station WSM while she did all things that a mother does to make her house run. And so he wrote this song with her in mind.
I love how Hiatt puts you right there in the woman’s daily life and how integral music was to her.
Hope everyone has a nice Sunday!
Sheets dance on the line White as the clouds gone by Screen door kicking time As kids melt into the sky And you’re making your moves Trying just to stay alive And the music is hot
WSM On your transistor radio A song about trains You can hear that whistle blow Waylon walks the line Merle’s mama tries to tell him so And the music is hot
You got a story ’bout twenty miles long You got a tune like a number one song You got the sweat like the shirt off my back You got the heart let me open it a crack Fiddles and steel takin’ you higher Passed cotton fields and telephone wires Out to the church and the gospel choir And you’re gone
Sun going down You’re scrounging to feed the dog You’re wearing a dress You saw in a catalog The crickets have started To sing with those old bull frogs And the music is hot
You tuck in the kids And think of a nice long bath You notice your mom Staring back from a photograph Quick as you turn You’re pretty sure you hear her laugh And the music is hot
You got a story ’bout twenty miles long You got a tune like a number one song You got the sweat like the shirt off my back You got the heart let me open it a crack Fiddles and steel takin’ you higher Passed cotton fields and telephone wires Beyond the church and the gospel choir And you’re gone
This past Monday night my wife and I saw John Hiatt live at the Rams Head On Stage venue in Annapolis MD. It was my first concert in probably 2 years. Words cannot begin to describe the absolute joy I felt sitting in the Rams Head experiencing one of my favorite artists live again. I felt like a parched man wandering through the desert who had finally found an oasis to quench his thirst. A battery that was about tapped out that suddenly was recovering its charge. I felt I was connected to that mystical musical source that sustains my soul and provides its purest power in the form of live music. It was such an incredible feeling.
Hiatt was on tour to promote his new album, Leftover Feelings, a collaboration with dobro master Jerry Douglas, whose band was backing Hiatt on this tour. Consisting of Mike Seal on electric guitar, Daniel Kimbro on stand up bass, Christian Sedelmyer on fiddle, and Douglas on dobro and lap steel guitar, the band really brought out the country and Americana aspects that are an inherent part of much of Hiatt’s music (and yes even a bit of bluegrass). Hiatt played a number of tunes off the new album, while sprinkling in songs from over his entire career. It was a real kick to hear some of his classics brought to live in this new way by the band. Here’s a video I shot of Slow Turning, off the album of the same name from 1988 – note the audience reaction when it gets to the lyrical reference to Charlie Watts.
Hiatt was in fine form, and it seemed to me that he was really enjoying having a band backing him to bring added life to his songs. I have seen him a number of times over the last 5-6 years, and with the exception of the 30 year anniversary concert tour for Slow Turning (where he was backed up by the Goners), its always been him solo acoustic. He was ducking and weaving and stomping around on stage like he was 30 years younger.
Highlights of the concert for me were Feels Like Rain , another tune off of Slow Turning, Have a Little Faith in Me from Bring the Family (my wife and I’s wedding song, done solo as the first encore), as well as Your Dad Did (also from Bring the Family). In all the years I’ve been seeing Hiatt live (going back to the late 80s, I’ve never heard it live. Your Dad Did tells the humorous story of a new Dad with his young family, realizing with some degree of surprise and horror that he’s not that different from his own Dad, I think something that a lot of us realize as we get older. It was a real treat to hear if finally live after all these years.
After a 18 song, close to 90 minute set, Hiatt closed the show with Riding with the King, a classic older song from 1983 Here’s the video I shot of that one – they really burned it up and you can see what I mean about Hiatt having a ball.
I’m still riding the high of the concert the next day, and am so grateful that Maryland has such a high vaccination rate that I felt comfortable attending this show and that Hiatt felt comfortable enough to tour. Hopefully this is a sign that we are inching closer to something approaching normalcy, at least in regards to live music. If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking him out live!
Ok, let’s round out my list of favorite new music from 2018. For Part 1, see here
Meg Myers – Tear Me to Pieces
Heard this on an NPR earlier this year and was blown away by the intensity of the emotions – about getting into a situation which you know you will regret but doing it anyway.
Hatchie – Sure
Another Australian singer/songwriter from her debut EP Sugar & Spice. I love the huge atmospheric pop feel of this song about the mixed up feelings at the end of a relationship (or is it the end?)
The Wild Feathers – On My Way
Another band my co-blogger Mike turned me onto. One of my new favorite bands.
George Ezra – Shotgun
English singer/songwriter George Ezra’s sophomore effort, Staying at Tamara’s has his biggest pop hooks to date, and that’s a good thing. I could have picked many from this album.
John Hiatt – Over the Hill
34 years and 22 albums in, John Hiatt is still turning out amazing, funny, soulful music – truly an American treasure. From his latest, The Eclipse Sessions. I had the thrill of seeing him twice in concert this year.
Frank Turner -1933
Frank Turner’s latest is his most ambitious musically to date, but still includes the kind of punk folk that I have always loved about him. When I saw him earlier this year in Baltimore, he opened with this number, and absolutely blew the roof off the stage from the get go. About the scary times we are living in. Bonus live version below!
Well that’s it – I am looking forward to discovering lots of new music in the new year and sharing it with you all!
About 30 years ago, I read a record review in Rolling Stone magazine of John Hiatt’sSlow Turning and was intrigued enough to go out and buy it without having heard a song – the one and only time actually that I have ever done that! I can’t remember exactly what intrigued me, although I vaguely remember that the review said that Hiatt had used the word somnambulist in one lyric (for Ride Along) and still made it work. So started a 30 year love of John Hiatt and his music. He has become one of my favorite artists, and Slow Turning would definitely be one of my Desert Island discs.
So I was beyond thrilled to find out (from Facebook of all places!) that he was touring with the Goners, his back up band on Slow Turning, to celebrate the album’s 30 anniversary, and that he would be coming through my area. Its been awhile since Hiatt has toured with a band- most of his concerts over the last 5 years or so have been solo acoustic, in line with his recent work.
The concert, at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, a beautiful historic theater (it opened in the 1920s) in downtown Frederick MD, began with a surprise (to me) – an “opening” five song set from Hiatt himself, on acoustic guitar. He opened with Perfectly Good Guitar from his 1993 album of the same name, which has the classic line “Oh, it breaks my heart to see those stars, Smashing a perfectly good guitar.” The original Perfectly Good Guitar was loud and noisy, written to show his teenage son that he could still rock out, so hearing it acoustic was a jarring but effective contrast. The rest of the songs spanned his career from the late 1980’s to the present, including a new song, Cry to Me, off his forthcoming album, The Eclipse Sessions, coming out this fall.
After a short intermission, Hiatt returned with the Goners – David Ranson on bass and vocals, Kenneth Blevins on drums and vocals, and Sonny Landreth on electric and slide guitars and vocals. Landreth of course is an acclaimed guitarist in his own right, and so the phrase on the outside concert billboard that had said “Featuring Sonny Landreth” was no lie – his guitar work on these songs was fantastic, bringing them to life as if we were attending a live recording session of Slow Turning. I’ve heard many of these songs live before, but hearing them with Landreth (and Ranson and Blevins) playing took them to a different level.
As is usual for these types of album anniversary concerts, Hiatt and the Goners played the album straight through in order, with Hiatt telling some funny stories and anecdotes to introduce them. (As an aside, I had to laugh a few times when at several points someone in the audience would yell out a request for some other song from a different album – do you not understand the concept of this type of concert?? At one point even Hiatt himself had to say “You know on any other night we would play that song, but tonight we decided to play this album all the way through.”
As the band played the opening notes of Drive South, the first song on the album, it was thrilling to know that we were about to hear this classic collection of songs straight through live – songs which have been part of the soundtrack of my adult life. Every song was a highlight, of course, but I thought the band really kicked into gear on the 3rd song in, Tennessee Plates, a great example of Hiatt’s ability to tell a funny engaging story in a song with a twist at the end that brings it all together. Here’s some video of that song [disclaimer – all these videos are not from this concert but others on this tour; I decided not to video for several reasons – the theater setting made it hard to do without being disruptive to those around me, and the drunk jerk next to me was providing all the disruption needed as he was videoing every song and then loudly commenting on it – but that’s perhaps a topic for another post.)
Here’s Tennnessee Plates from the Boulder, Co stop (courtesy of YouTuber Bob Terwilliger):
As I mentioned, what made the concert really special was the slide guitar work of Sonny Landreth. He was really the (not so) secret weapon that made the concert so special. While I love all the songs on the album, some I love more than others. But Landreth’s playing made some of the other songs my new favorites. Here’s Ride Along from the Raleigh NC stop (courtesy YouTuber Ralph Berg; song starts at about 1:30 after band intros):
The highpoint of the concert (and the album) for me was of course Slow Turning, which has the classic line “Well I’m in the car, yeah I got the radio down, and I’m a’yelling at the kids in the back cause they’re banding like a’ Charlie Watts.” The song has spoken to me in different ways over the years, but its central message that life is a journey, a “slow turnin’ from the inside out” to love, satisfaction, and meaning in life, “not fade away, not fade away” has been something I’ve returned to time and time again through both the good and bad of life. Here’s some video from the Augusta GA show (courtesy YouTuber Greg Perry)
The last song I’d like to highlight is Is Anybody There?, a gospel influenced song that Hiatt performed on organ. He told a wonderful story about tuning into a Nashville station on Sunday nights when he was a kid to hear R&B and gospel songs that really influenced him, and he wrote this song with that in mind. Its message of searching and striving to be better, both in life and in love, has always been profound to me. Here’s some video from the tour stop in Amsterdam, Netherlands courtesy of YouTuber Jos Westenberg:
After completing the album song sequence with Feels Like Rain, Hiatt and the Goners came back for the encore. To highlight and give due to what Landreth added to these songs (and also perhaps to fulfill a contract arrangement?) the first song was Congo Square, a Landreth song that really allowed him to showcase his skills. Hiatt then played Have a Little Faith in Me solo at the organ (another favorite moment, as it was my wife and I’s wedding song), and the night concluded with the rollicking classic Memphis in the Meantime off Bring the Family, the acclaimed album that immediately preceded Slow Turning.
The Slow Turning 30th Anniversary tour has only 5 shows left with stops in NY and the Midwest. Hiatt will then be back in October touring solo behind his forthcoming record The Eclipse Sessions. Either with the Goners or solo, if you get the chance I would highly recommend trying to catch one of the best songwriters around!
Perfectly Good Guitar (solo acoustic)
Real Fine Love (solo acoustic)
Master of Disaster (solo acoustic)
Cry to Me (solo acoustic)
Aces Up Your Sleeve (solo acoustic)
Crossing Muddy Waters (solo acoustic)
Cry Love (solo acoustic)Drive South (with the Goners)
Trudy and Dave (with the Goners)
Tennessee Plates (with the Goners)
Icy Blue Heart (with the Goners)
Sometime Other Than Now (with the Goners)
Georgia Rae (with the Goners)
Ride Along (with the Goners)
Slow Turning (with the Goners)
It’ll Come to You (with the Goners)
Is Anybody There? (with the Goners)
Paper Thin (with the Goners)
Feels Like Rain (with the Goners)
Congo Square (Sonny Landreth)
Have A Little Faith In Me (solo at piano)
Memphis in Meantime (with the Goners)