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John Hiatt on the Cayamo Cruise

Feb 18, 2008
Kimmy Sophia Brown

John Hiatt came out on the Cayamo stage wearing a Hawaiian shirt and jeans and a big smile. He picked up his perfectly tuned 12 string guitar and played a gritty, warm feelin’ love song called, “You’ve got a real fine love” (“ I’m unworthy of...”).

My first impression was that of feeling the incredible rapport between Mr. Hiatt and his audience. There was so much love there. We met people onboard the cruise who came specifically for his music and Lyle’s. They said that John Hiatt understands women. His songs honor women. I felt that. He had a very masculine, gravelly voice that sometimes rose up into a primal howl, and then down into a growl - kind of Van Morrison meets Tom Wait meets Leon Russell with Randy Newman on the side. He owns many harmonicas. He interchanged them on many songs. Also, he changed guitars frequently and seamlessly. A man who I am sure has a name, but I don’t know what it is, came out handing guitars to John between songs, that were perfectly tuned and ready to go. That professionalism was impressive.

He mentioned that a NASA scientist in the audience told him that one of his CDs was taken on the Hubble Spacecraft and “I got a blue telescope” was played on their first morning in space. Then he played it for us. He was a very natural, down to earth guy. One of the songs began, “Sitting on the toilet with my sunglasses on” drew a lot of laughs. There was a lot of banter between him and the audience, like old friends in the bleachers at a kids’ little league game.

He did songs which either had the lines or were entitled, “Don’t look back,” “What do we do now?”, “This thing called love”, “Same old man”, “Lincolntown”, “Somebody hurt my baby”, “Old days” “Through your hands”, “Muddy Water”, “Let’s go to Memphis”, “Have a little faith in me”, had me sobbing over the lines:

“When your secret heart -
Cannot speak so easily -
Come here darlin’ -
From a whisper start...”

There is no woman on earth that doesn’t want to hear that. I didn’t have access to a set list, and since I was not a fan before I don’t know his material, but being able to sit there in front of him was such a treat. After the show I thought, where the heck have I been, not to have been listening to this guy for the past twenty years? He was like coffee or cigars or brandy or whiskey or wine or cheese or one of those items that improves with age. You could see life on his face, a life that must have had joy and suffering, but which came out distilled into some of the most pleasing musical moonshine I have ever had the honor of tasting.

Here is a sampling of albums available on John Hiatt’s Anthology, Master of Disaster, Slow Turning.

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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