From The Published Archives: Walk On

Here’s one of my favourite CD reviews from the Satellite era.  Published November 7, 1995 on page 17, this is my 4-star (out of 5) review of John Hiatt’s 1995 album, Walk On.
By Dennis Earl
Special To The Satellite

John Hiatt is one of those rare musicians who are hard to label with a single word. Sure, he’s a singer/songwriter (a good one, actually), he dabbles in a bit of country (without the twang) and straightforward rock ‘n’ roll (both acoustic and electric). But he also experiments with alternative music; discarding the pop mood and replacing it with a darker tone and playing fuzzy, misery-soaked guitars. No wonder he’s a fixture on college radio. He’s a musician who refuses to place commercialism on a higher platform than artistic merit. Quite simply, he rocks!

His latest effort, entitled Walk On, is a splendid showcase for Hiatt’s talent as an effective and observant social commentator. Songs like "Shredding The Document" (which features Gary Louris & Mark Olsen of The Jayhawks on back-up vocals) and the title cut effectively cut beneath the surface of familiar situations like domestic abuse and dysfunctional lowlifes on exploitive TV talk shows to reveal a bitter truth: we only get involved when it matters to us directly. Who cares about everyone else’s problems? If it doesn’t concern me, why should I give a damn. That is what our society has become: selfish and self-important.

Other standout cuts include "The River Knows Your Name," a beautiful ballad about cleansing the soul and expressing your pain, not repressing it; "Wrote It Down And Burned It" which condemns violence against women; and the first single, "Cry Love," a song that seems to be saying to the listener, "Hey! This relationship didn’t work out. So what? Move on and you’ll find another." Not only are all these songs lyrically sound, the music is equally as hooky and melodic, as it should be. There’s no sense in writing deep lyrics if the music is going to sound bad.

There is not a single bad song on this CD. Plus, there are 2 bonus cuts; one of them credited on the last page of the lyric booklet, the other uncredited. The credited bonus cut is called "Thundering Through Pattenburgh", a selection from a CD entitled "From Safety Values To Ribbon Rails," which you can buy through the mail (the address is given on the same page). It’s not a John Hiatt song but rather, a journey through the city via the sounds of the outdoors. Crickets can be heard as an oncoming thunderstorm brews in the background, gradually getting closer and louder. Then, out of nowhere, a subway train screeches by and then, as quickly as it came, the sounds die down and the disc ends. It’s a nicely-recorded selection that fits in nicely with the other material. It’s a fitting companion to "Wrote It Down And Burned It." (By the way, I don’t know what the other song is called but it is also compelling.)

Even though he’s been performing for years, John Hiatt’s Walk On is a good indication of even better music to come. He’s a terrific songwriter and his off-beat voice is rich with distinction, character and genuine soul. He’s not a pretty vocalist like, say, Thomas Yorke of Radiohead, but rather, a "character" vocalist like that of an Art Bergmann. It’s raw, flawed, unpolished. And it works. The man who gave us "Have A Little Faith In Me" and "Perfectly Good Guitar" is in fine form once again. And, if your a fan of Bonnie Raitt, you can listen to her wonderful falsetto as she does back-up duties with Hiatt on "I Can’t Wait."

Wait ’til it goes on sale, you bargain hunters, and then, buy this thoroughly enjoyable CD. You’ll be glad you did.  
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 9, 2006
1:02 a.m.
Published in: on April 9, 2006 at 1:04 am  Leave a Comment  

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