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John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender

Album Notes

John Hiatt has always had one foot in the blues, and he's decided to wade waist deep into the music on 2014's Terms of my Surrender. There isn't a lot of 12-bar on this album if you're a purist about such things, but the tone of this music is smoky and rich like a Deep South BBQ joint, which suits the gruff texture of Hiatt's voice just fine, and the rootsy mood of the songs is reinforced by the production and arrangements. Hiatt primarily plays acoustic guitar on Terms of my Surrender, which cuts back the volume of these performances but adds a lot to the slinky middle-of-the-night groove of the music; Doug Lancio, lead guitarist with Hiatt's road band the Combo, produced this album, and the results sound organic and spontaneous, more so than his previous albums with producer Kevin Shirley, without obscuring the easy precision of Hiatt and his bandmates. The interplay of the band is solid, with Nathan Gehri's bass and Kenneth Blevins' drums resting comfortably in the pocket as Hiatt and Lancio conjure ghostly melodies with their guitars. "Here to Stay" and "Nothing I Love" are simple but effective blues-based numbers that deal with the tough side of love, while "Marlene" and "Come Back Home" are more cheerful variations on similar themes, and the quality of the songwriting here once again serves as a reminder of just how good Hiatt is -- this is a guy who can crank out an album of new material every couple years, and he always delivers a handful of real gems without sounding rote, whether he's sounding ominous on "The Wind Don't Have to Hurry" or offering snarky humor on "Old People." On Terms of My Surrender, Hiatt has the blues, and he's got the goods, and this is another solid chapter in a recording career that's drifted into an unexpected but pleasing renaissance. ~ Mark Deming



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