Crossing Muddy Waters

John Hiatt "Crossing Muddy Waters"
Vanguard Records

CD review by Roger-Z

After 25 years in the business with 17 major label albums, singer-songwriter John Hiatt turned to his new manager and said, "How about an 'acoustic-y' kind of record? I've never really made one." So he entered the studio for three days accompanied only by Dave Faragher on bass and David Immergluck on mandolin -- guys he played with on and off for the past six years. They gave birth to "Crossing Muddy Waters," a record recorded live with just one or two overdubs. According to John, "It's a simple way to do it, but it's not necessarily easy. You have to have the goods."

How can one single man create so many terrific tunes? His hits include "Riding With The King," the title track of Eric Clapton and B.B. King's chart-topping blues album, as well as Bonnie Raitt's "Thing Called Love." Could it be tragedy -- alcoholism, divorce, the suicide of his first wife? Not according to John. "I don't think that you have to be in despair to write about despair. That's the fallacy that I used to subscribe to. I thought that you had to be miserable to write songs, and I spent a lot of time trying to make myself miserable and I was pretty good at it."

Whatever his muse, it works. Standout tracks include "What Do We Do Now," "Lift Up Every Stone," "Take It Down," and "God's Golden Eye." As Bonnie Raitt has said, "He's twistedly gifted and giftedly twisted. He's got a real skewed view of human emotions, love, and the world."

In one final twist, John owns the master of this record. Vanguard can only sell it for three to five years.

2003 Roger-Z