John Hiatt & The Goners
Beneath This Gruff Exterior
by Tony Engelhart
Review date: June 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
Best know for his songwriting ability than a performer until recently, it took John Hiatt 13 years to find a widespread audience and chart success. Perhaps due to his search for a sound that best fit him was to blame but in the process everyone from Bonnie Raitt, Ronnie Milsap, and Dr. Feelgood to Iggy Pop, Three Dog Night, and the Neville Brothers have recorded covers of Hiatt's tunes. Hiatt finally settled on a rootsy fusion of rock & roll, country, blues, and folk with his 1987 album Bring the Family. While the record did little for John Hiatt's solo career, it did establish him as a premier songwriter as "Have A Little Faith In Me" was covered by Joe Cocker and Delbert McClinton and "Thing Called Love" catapulted Bonnie Raitt into superstardom. Hiatt's next two discs' - Slow Burn and Stolen Moments - would find more chart success than ever for the singer/songwriter. However, it was his 1993 release, Perfectly Good Guitar that would capture the attention of radio stations and record buyers.
Beneath This Gruff Exterior doesn't deviate much from his past eight records as Hiatt's grooves are still a combination of blues, rock and roll, and country. His gravely voice, jam-band style and slide guitar work give the recording the eclectic John Hiatt trademark sound which fans have come to embrace. The first single, "My Baby Blue", has already found heavy rotation on both blues and adult alternative radio. Sonny Landreth reunites with the Goners and lays down some tasty electric slide on cuts "The Last Time" and funky dobro licks on such tracks as the blues-country "Fly Back Home" and "Missing Pieces".
While Beneath This Gruff Exterior isn't as experimental as 2001's The Tiki Bar Is Open where Hiatt used drum loops and the occasional overdub to enhance his rootsy sound, it is vintage John Hiatt. Chalk full of well written songs, superb musicianship, and a nice balance of different styles, this disc will please Hiatt fans without question.
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