It's a fair certainty at this point that John Hiatt is going to be sticking with the roots rock game plan he's been using since the late '80s. The sound is working for him, and he receives respect from many of the most revered rock musicians in the world. He has worked extensively with Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe, and his music has been covered by everyone from Conway Twitty to Bonnie Raitt (who scored a massive hit in 1989 with Hiatt's "Thing Called Love") to Iggy Pop. He's earned the right to rest on his laurels.
Master of Disaster reaffirms the notion that while Hiatt isn't making too much artistic progress, he's firmly in the pocket and will probably always make very decent roots rock. He covers all his bases on this album, from the bluesy "Ain't Ever Goin' Back" to the galloping, poppy "Thunderbird." He does ace honky-tonk with "Wintertime Blues" and moving folk with "Cold River." He even scores with straight-ahead, classic rock 'n' roll in the piercing "Love's Not Where We Thought We Left It," the album's most moving track.
Hiatt has a certain flare, and he's a master of a dying musical form. It's something of a shame that, after John Hiatt's significant contribution to American music, the singer-songwriter should be relegated to smaller labels (this is his second New West release, after putting out a pair of albums on Vanguard). But his core audience is definitely a product of his by-now niche songwriting. It's a sound that is slowly fading away, but it remains an iconic, classic taste of late-20th century Americana.
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Cory O'Malley (DesignDude)
I'm a community manager at Lunch and think I know a thing or two about quirky industrial design, indie rock, lowbrow art, contemporary British authors, Mediterranean cuisine, chihuahuas -- pretty much … more
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John Hiatt Master of Disaster Release Date 2005 06 21 Label New West Records, Inc. Rating:
John Hiatt has often wavered back and forth between his instincts as a rocker and a more measured singer/songwriter bent, and after the rowdy guitar-fueled blues-rock of 2003's Beneath This Gruff Exterior, it should come as no great surprise that Hiatt toned things down a bit for his next album, 2005's Master of Disaster. Produced by Jim Dickinson, with his sons Luther Dickinson and Cody Dickinson (from the North Mississippi Allstars) on guitar and drums, Master of Disaster is rooted in loosely tight Memphis groove, but while Hiatt sounds soulful as all get out (as per usual) on this set, the lingering mood is often downbeat and introspective. The title cut is a stinging meditation on the role of addiction in a musician's life, &"Love's Not Where We Left It" and &"Ain't Never Goin' Back" are as lean and unsentimental as songs about love can get, and even his ode to the wonders of the Ford Thunderbird finds room for some pithy recollections about one man's bitter relationship with his father. Still, Hiatt does find some room for comic relief in his meditation on cold weather, &"Wintertime Blues," he has fun with his crotchety old man tale &"Old School," and the raspy grain that has worked its way into his voice suits both the singer and his songs just fine, giving the performances a welcome warmth and ...