Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Off-Genre: I’m Satisfied

John Hiatt: I‘m Satisfied


Many artists do their thing on their albums, and never go off course. And this is true even for an artist like John Hiatt, whose style is not easy to pin down. Hiatt is known for the amazing wordplay in his lyrics and the clever twists in his storytelling. He’s worth listening to because, for all the cleverness, he never loses sight of the humanity of his characters. And it doesn’t hurt that he is also a fine instrumentalist. But, if you want to hear John Hiatt go off genre, you must leave behind the albums he records in his own name.

Tribute albums are a fine source for material this week. At their best, these albums allow artists to reveal an influence that the listener never suspected. If there is a weakness in the album Avalon Blues, it is that many of the choices of artists are too obvious, The album pays tribute to the music of blues legend Mississippi John Hurt, and the roster contains a mix of artists working in the acoustic blues scene, as well as some artists whose love of the blues is obvious in their work. But there are some ringers, and John Hiatt is one of these. Here he is, with only his own acoustic guitar for accompaniment. I’m Satisfied is a straightforward tale, with no irony involved, and Hiatt’s vocal is low key and radiates warmth. It’s a wonderful performance, and a wonderful surprise from one of my favorite artists. And let me emphasize that the rest of the album is just as good, just not always so surprising.

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