John Hiatt: Mystic Pinball – album reviewJohn Hiatt: Mystic Pinball (New West Records)
DL/CD+Vinyl Deluxe Bundle/CD
Out: Now

John Hiatt’s new album has certainly impressed LTW scribe Chris Hearn. He elaborates on the why and the how below.

I don’t think John Hiatt is capable of making a bad record, and he’s definitely made more than his fair share of brilliant albums. This is another one of those. Wow, you know, it just blows me away how good this guy really is. He’s probably one of the best song writers out there, who has had his music covered by countless artists like Bonnie Raitt, Marshall Crenshaw, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and so on, and on, and on….and on. He also has one of the most unique voices pretty much anywhere, with his deep, raspy bluesy sound that is recognizable the second you hear it. You can’t mistake him for anyone else even if you tried.

After 40 years of doing this, he seems to be aging like the proverbial wine. He only seems to be getting better and better as time passes, I swear. This is his 23rd album and judging by the quality of this one, there are many more left in him, which is comforting. From the very first chugs of the bluesy, rootsy, up-tempo, almost gospel tinged sing-along “We’re Alright Now” you know that this is going to be a sweet listen. And it just keeps on going, song after song until by the end, you have heard a classic example of how exceptionally crafted music should sound.

Watch: “We’re Alright Now” live video:

“Bite Marks” is a greasy, dark, sexy back street driving blues number. Hiatt is good at these songs, and it reminds me of a less autobiographical “Paper Thin” off of Slow Turning. Hiatt’s got the absolute perfect, gravelly, powerhouse voice to give this song proper bite (See what I did there? Eh?) . “Wood Chipper” is a dark humoured beauty about love gone wrong, cheating, lying, stealing, coppers, grocery lists and murder. It’s packed with Hiatt personality. “I Just Don’t Know What To Say” is a hurtin’ ballad about being burnt by love done in a distinctly Hiatt fashion once again. “You’re All The Reason I Need” is a very blue collar roots rock number about being a hard-working man with one woman on his mind. And it keeps going and going, all just the great sounds and lyrics that one should expect from a John Hiatt release. What we have here are songs of love lost and gained, experiences good and bad, lessons learned, lessons given, life and it’s many twists and turns. And it’s all done accompanied by outstanding musicianship. I wish I had liner notes for this album. I only have the audio. I wonder who he has playing with him. According to his facebook page his current band, The Combo, is made up of Patrick O’Hearn, Doug Lancio and Kenneth Blevins who are all accomplished musicians from Nashville. But, with horns, slide guitar, dobro and other instruments on this album, clearly he has plenty of help. And, I’m sure there are no shortage of amazing people who would love to play with him.Oh ya, and the guy drives a race car as well. At least he did. I went to Nashville one year and went to this celebrity race. He had his own car and everything. Who knew? As a diehard race fan I thought that was pretty cool.

Watch: “No Wicked Grin” live acoustic:

So, thanks John Hiatt for once again delivering the goods and giving us great stories of real people and real life and doing so with heart and soul and honesty. This is an album that, in my opinion, is timeless. As with other Hiatt albums, it will probably sound as fresh and relevant in 30 years’ time as it does today. So will the next album, and the album after that, and the album after that and….

You can listen to Mystic Pinball (minus the exclusive title track that only comes as a download with album purchase) right now on John Hiatt’s Facebook page. Listen to it, fall in love with it and buy yourself a copy at iTunes or Amazon, or hopefully it is at your local record shop which I encourage you to support first! You can also check out John Hiatt online at his official website.

All words by Chris Hearn. You can read more from Chris HERE.

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Deep in the heart of Canada, on the north shore of frigid Lake Superior, is a town called Thunder Bay. That\'s where I am from. That\'s where I started to write. And that is where I started to discover music. Now, I\'m a married man with two boys. I still love music. I still go to shows. And I still visit Thunder Bay, even though I haven\'t lived there for many years. What will you find on my iPod? You\'ll find lot of Americana, classic country, heavy stuff, punk and plenty of “guilty pleasures”.


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