Audio Mixer: Chad Brown.
Recording information: Studio G!, Nashville, TN (2011); Toybox Studio, Nashville, TN (2011).
Photographers: J. Noel; Steph Burdorff.
Having John Hiatt for a father must be pretty intimidating for anyone eager to become a singer and songwriter, but it's fortunate for Lilly Hiatt that she seems to have learned a great deal from her father's example without trying to sound much like him. Let Down, the first album from Hiatt and her band the Dropped Ponies, showcases a young artist who loves classic country music but plays it with a rock & roll edge, writes lyrics that are literate but unpretentious and emotionally honest, and marries them to melodies that are at once rootsy and fresh. If that sounds a bit like John Hiatt, well, the philosophy may be similar but Lilly has put together the ingredients in a decisively different way. Lilly has a voice that's gentle but never weak, and the faint twang of her instrument wraps itself beautifully around these tunes; while her dad is a great songwriter with a pretty good voice, Lilly's vocal abilities are strong enough that she could make a compelling album even if she had to rely on others for material (which she clearly does not, as the easy but determined sway of the music confirms). And while most of these songs are clearly informed by vintage country, on "Angry Momma" and "Big Bad Wolf," guitarist Beth Finney cranks up the guitars to a Neil Young level of distortion and Lilly shows she can deliver some heavier, blues-shot raunch. Producer Doug Lancio has given Let Down a warm, naturalistic sound that is a fine fit for Lilly and the Dropped Ponies, and for a 22-year-old making her first album, Hiatt shows a skill and assurance that's quite impressive. If you're looking for the next great voice on the Americana scene, give Let Down a listen and you might just hear it in Lilly Hiatt. ~ Mark Deming