Album Review

The Eclipse Sessions. John Hiatt. New West. 2018.

It’s comforting to know that some things are 100% reliable. The Earth orbits the Sun; and the Moon orbits the Earth. Politicians make promises that they know they cannot keep, and look for ways to pass the buck whenever somebody calls them on their failure to keep said promises. John Hiatt makes damn fine music.

Over the past 45 years, Hiatt has released 23 studio albums, and I would be hard pressed to come up with a single track that wasn’t quality songwriting. Sure, some of the tracks have aged better than others, but the 80’s happened to everybody. Still, when you listen to Hiatt’s songs, from any period in his catalog, you get an appreciation for the skill and care he brings to the craft of songwriting. On that measure ‘The Eclipse Sessions’ maintains the standard . . . it may even raise the bar.

Sonically, the album puts Hiatt’s range on display. Tracks vary from the heartbroken and hesitant sounding ‘Aces Up Your Sleeve’ to full-on rockers like ‘Poor Imitation of God’ and ‘One Stiff Breeze’. ‘Odds of Loving You’ features slide acoustic guitar that helps the song conjure up delta and country blues roots. ‘All the Way to the River’ is one of the heaviest hitters on the album: it zeroes in on Hiatt’s signature sound, which blends blues traditions into a self-assured, straight from the bottle, blues.

While the tracks I’ve mentioned stand out from the rest of the album for one reason or another, it is the half-dozen numbers that I haven’t mentioned that do the most impressive work. They provide the glue that holds the ten tracks together as an album. They set and maintain the tone against which the standouts sparkle. Perhaps most importantly, they demonstrate that Hiatt is still a master craftsman capable of doing fantastic work in subtle ways.

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