JOHN HIATT, one of America’s foremost singer-songwriters, has made a swift return to the recording fray by way of a brand new album, entitled MYSTIC PINBALL
MYSTIC PINBALL comprises twelve new Hiatt originals, and maintains the high standards that Hiatt achieved with last year’s excellent Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. In fact, the success of that album infused Hiatt with a real sense of urgency, and in Mystic Pinball has came up with yet more corroborative evidence that the man is at a new creative peak. Hiatt, accompanied by his backing crew The Combo – and let’s name-check ‘em here: Doug Lancio (electric guitar, mandolin, Dobro), Kenneth Blevins (drums and percussion) and Patrick O’Hearn (bass) – attacks the even dozen songs with a relish and energetic zeal that will not be denied – ranging from the Gospel-tinged Rock Action of the opener, We’re Alright Now, through to the most tender of ballads in the shape of No Wicked Grin, across an ever-impressive stylistic range – truly, the Man and Band are on fire.
Hiatt returned to the great producer Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley for the production seat – the man is one of America’s hottest sound talents, having graced recordings by the likes of Aerosmith and Joe Bonamassa, but here Shirley shows the same deft touch that he applied to Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, crafting backing tracks that frame Hiatt’s superb songs with a flair and dynamic intensity that enhances the potency of the songs without needless clutter. Shirley adds subtle tonal colour and imaginative shadings to tracks such as the brittle, bluesy, Wood Chipper that lifts a great song into something spooky and otherworldly. My Business may just be the toughest-rocking cut that Hiatt’s ever recorded, with its Howlin’ Wolf vocal hollers and gutbucket stomp, yet his thoughtful, ruminative side shines through on I Just Don’t Know What To Say, the very next track, a piano ballad of plangent majesty. MYSTIC PINBALL is an album of dazzling changes of mood and tone informed by the drive and ambition of a singer-songwriter at the very Top of his game.