More than 30 years after the release of his debut album, JOHN HIATT remains one of America’s most respected and influential singer-songwriters. As the Los Angeles Times wrote, “(Hiatt) writes the funniest sad songs – and the saddest funny songs – of just about anybody alive.”
A truly great songwriter revered for his keen wit, narrative flair, and refusal to pen a sloppy or sappy line, Hiatt arrived in Nashville as an 18-year-old and began writing for a music publishing company. Early covers of his work by the Neville Brothers, Ronnie Milsap, Bonnie Raitt and many others began alerting music lovers to his compositional flair. Three Dog Night cut his song “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here,” which went to the Top 20 in 1974. After he was signed to his own record deal shortly thereafter, fans appreciated Hiatt’s cleverness, idiomatic versatility, distinctive, gruff, and endearing voice and slashing guitar skills. Over the years, everyone from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Rodney Crowell, and Willie Nelson to Buddy Guy, Flaco Jimenez, and Ry Cooder have covered his tunes.
Hiatt began gaining equal notoriety as a performer. The evidence of his evolution into a formidable artist also became more apparent in his live shows. Soon such seminal releases as Bring The Family in 1987 (whose rootsy rock-country-blues fusion earned him the honor of being named Best Male Vocalist in Rolling Stone’s Critics Poll), Slow Turning in 1988, Stolen Moments in 1990, and Walk On in 1995 were the signal that he had become a distinctive and dynamic star. Hiatt’s greatness couldn’t be denied, and he subsequently made three more astonishing releases as the 21st century began: Crossing Muddy Waters, The Tiki Bar Is Open, and Beneath This Gruff Exterior.
With 2005’s Master of Disaster, released in June, John Hiatt covers the great American musical experience while celebrating and updating rock and roll. Recorded with Cody and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and produced by Jim Dickinson, Master of Disaster had a lot of ground to explore. Hiatt explains, “We were influenced by the blues, by country music, by ragtime, jazz, everything. But we were also reflecting the sense of the frontier, the whole Southern experience of different cultures and sounds bumping up against the Mississippi River.”