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TomTeriffic (Who???) here, singing lead on this particular installment.
I just love playing for folks, and even more so for the small cadre of loyal fans (we call them Normaniacs) who have taken the time to come out to our performances, however rare they may be. The title of this review is usually shouted out by the Normaniacs at the mention of a song by either myself, or, more likely, the late, great Steve Goodman. I had initially thought of doing a piece on Steve’s songwriting, but his body of work is so vast and varied that to point out a single album’s worth of work is to do a grave disservice to the rest of it. So, I’ve decided to save that for another time.
Instead, I’ve decided to concentrate on an album’s worth of work by another of my all-time favorite songwriters, John Hiatt (Who????). To be sure, this undertaking carries similar perils to those involved in the Steve Goodman undertaking, since John’s work includes countless albums over the span of several decades, and there are gems and personal favorites on each record.
Nevertheless, I have a favorite John Hiatt record. It’s entitled “Stolen Moments”. Written and recorded in 1990 and 1991, this was John’s third album after he began recovering from the alcoholism and drug addiction that nearly claimed his life and drove his wife to suicide. The story is told of veteran producer Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones et al.) banging on Hiatt’s door and telling him, “I’m producing your next record. I don’t care if you don’t even have a contract right now, I’m producing your next record”. It came to pass, and “Stolen Moments” is the result.
One might expect that, what with him being so close to turning the corner on recovery, the record would be full of rueful retrospect and self-recrimination. Not so. While there is some retrospection going on here, it is surprisingly dispassionate, as if to say, “That’s the way it was, but things are different now”, or “Yeah, I did that, there were consequences I had to deal with, let’s move on”. Actually, the lyrics are brimming with hope, love and newfound optimism. It seems that he has found a second chance and, while mindful of his past, is joyously seizing what this new life has to offer.
There are strong parallels between Hiatt’s “curriculum vitae” and mine, and perhaps that’s why I connect with his writing so strongly. It’s plain-spoken but able to cut to the meat of the matter in the space of one line. Strangely, I found this record at a time when my own outlook was considerably less ebullient than that expressed in this record. To wit:
The third track on the record is entitled “Child Of The Wild Blue Yonder”, a song of a true free spirit, an unfettered woman who joyously accepts all of life’s vagaries. The lyrics include lines such as:
[i]She has the wind as a witness
She has feelings that fly by night
She believes in forgiveness
But it ain’t love if it holds too tight[/i]
[i]If you see her falling
That’s just a little trick she does
Makes a dive for the pain that’s calling
And heads off for the clouds like a little dove.[/i]
At the time, I found myself wondering wistfully: “Where the hell is she?” A few years later she showed up in the form of LinnieRed, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Another sordid tale of loose strings and fast music.
I was similarly taken by “Stolen Moments”, the title track.
[i]Baby you know we’re living in Stolen Moments
You steal enough and it feels like you’re stopping time.[/i]
Other cuts reminded me of other phases of my life: “Ten Little Indians” of my childhood with my dad and eight siblings, and the stories of his adventures in Alaska, “Back of My Mind” took me back to my own retrospective of the transition back to the Land of The Living after being in the Gray Zone for so long.
“Real Fine Love” explores Hiatt’s take on the impatience and anger of youth turning into the contentment of maturity and togetherness. This theme is revisited in the final track: “One Kiss”. Being a Geezer-in-Waiting, I particularly like this lyric:
[i]Let’s outlive our usefulness baby
Let’s stay in our own skin too long
‘Til we’re so wrinkled all the hatchlings just laugh at us
As they crack out of their eggshells at the break of dawn
We’ll say, “Oh, y’all are just getting home from a long night of self abuse?”
Well me and the missus were just getting the coffee pot to perk
Yeah, it’s a dirty job but we’re still living it and loving it
You kids let us know when you’re finished with your artwork.[/i]
Someone once said: “Country Music is three chords and the truth”. John’s music is the truth, even if it isn’t exactly country. If one were into pigeonholing the style, it would probably wind up under Roots or Americana or something such as that. It’s a cracking good little rock outfit that knows how to support and enhance the songs, and knows how to underscore the transitions between the interior and exterior views that seem to come so naturally in the lyrics.
If there’s a clunker in the bunch, it’s “Rock Back Billy” the tale of an almost-but-not-quite-successful aging rockabilly picker. It’s actually a great, foot-stomping piece of four-on-the-floor fun, but in the context of this album, it doesn’t quite work. Still, this one would make my short list for the repertoire if I were still in a bar band.
Who??? Oh, I forgot that part. John Hiatt is one of those guys, like Steve Goodman, whose songs you’ve, no doubt, heard quite a bit. The thing is, you probably didn’t hear Hiatt singing them, unless you caught “Slow Turning” or “Paper Thin,” which did get some airplay. It’s more likely that you heard somebody else singing “Thing Called Love” (Are you ready for the thing called love? Don’t come from you and me it comes from up above), the sublime “Angel Eyes”, or one of a number of his other songs which other folks thought enough of to cover. So, now you know “Who???”.
TomTerrific and LinnieRed own and operate Doc's Radar Station, an audio recording emporium which utlizes only state of the art digital Dixie Cups and string in its audio path
A Musical Duo Which Defies Description