The Open RoadAlbum |
Hiatt is all about the subtleties.
John Hiatt’s been through distinct phases over the course of his three-and-a-half-decade recording career, starting out as sort of a Midwestern Randy Newman and moving towards tough, punchy, Elvis Costello-ish New Wave inflections, eventually arriving at the rootsy Americana approach he’s been exploring since the late ‘80s. At this stage of the game, assessing Hiatt’s output is all about the subtleties. No one will be shocked, for instance, to learn that The Open Road, the tireless tunesmith’s 19th studio album, contains gritty, mid-tempo rockers (the title track), Chuck Berry-ish boogie (“Haulin’”), slow blues (“Like a Freight Train”), and soul-tinged balladry (“Wonder of Love”). These templates are simply the currency in which Hiatt’s muse trades; as with any Hiatt album, the real news on The Open Road is in the writing. It’s the morally questionable narrator who balances prosecutable offences against crimes of the heart in “What Kind of Man,” and the guy who vows to “go down swingin’ like a blade of steel” on “Go Down Swingin’,” that let us know there’s still some fire in Hiatt’s belly, prodding him to push the envelope. Sometimes you might wish the flames were turned up a little higher, but just try dousing them and see how far you get.