As far as I can tell the album is getting very little attention, so I thought it might be a good idea to mention that John Hiatt's "The Open Road" may just be my favorite album of the first six months of 2010.
Hiatt is one of those artists who always seems to wander just outside the periphery of the big time - you might hear a new song every now and then by accident (at least in these parts, it's inconceivable that you'd ever hear one on the radio), and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, John Hiatt - solid guy, always seems to make good albums, maybe I should check it out." Well, this time I did, based on nothing more than the cover alone. That sort of impulse has gotten me in trouble before, but there was something about the design of this one, the simplicity of it, that (for some reason) made me think that the music inside the package just might be worth the 11 bucks.
What Hiatt does on "The Open Road" with his band - Doug Lancio on guitar, Patrick O'Hearn on bass, and Kenneth Blevins on drums - is make it sound easy. It's his 19th studio album, and I don't own enough of them to make a valid comparison, but it sure sounds like it might be a culmination of everything he's accomplished over the past three decades. Let's put it this way - if this were the new Tom Petty album instead of "Mojo" (and don't get me wrong - I haven't yet bought the new Petty, so I'm intending no disrespect), everyone would be saying that it was his best album since the halcyon days of "Damn the Torpedoes."
And it's not that Hiatt is really trying anything new - from the first chords, the music is instantly recognizable as John Hiatt - but he's doing it so damn well, and it sounds so fresh, that you just have to marvel that he can pull it off. The title cut, which kicks off the album, sets the tone. None of it is fancy, and it brings to mind a comment Lou Reed once made, something along the lines of "two guitars, bass, and drums...that's all you really need, you know?"
The album is chock full of highlights, but my favorites are probably "Haulin"" and "What Kind of Man." The latter is a song that could only be written by a man with a lot of years and experience behind him:
What kind of man do you think I am/One twist and I'd do it all again/What kind of man got these holes in his mind/Do the same thing over and over again/Expecting something different this time/What kind of man do you think I am
I could go on, but you get the point. Do yourself a favor - check this one out.