John Hiatt: Mystic Pinball

Blues-slugging bombast from storied US songwriter.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Drafting in Aerosmith/ Black Crowes producer Kevin Shirley for last year’s Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns turned out to be a smart move by John Hiatt. The album was full of punch and brio, which served to accentuate the urgent drama of the narratives. Little surprise, then, that Shirley is back for the Nashville veteran’s hasty follow-up, backed by Hiatt’s trusty three-piece band of players, The Combo.

It starts very much in the same vein, his fantastically gnarled voice coursing through the truculent roadhouse blues of We’re Alright Now and Bite Marks. And rarely in recent years has Hiatt been more animated than on My Business, a defiant tale of a man whose disapproving wife only wishes to see him buried inside a wooden box.

That said, sometimes these songs’ big, strident settings tend to obscure the subtle beauty of Hiatt the songwriter. This is a man, after all, who’s been covered by everyone from Dylan and B.B. King to Clapton and Iggy Pop.

When the noise dips, as on the gorgeous Blues Can’t Even Find Me, Hiatt suddenly becomes extra luminous.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.