Friday • September 3, 2021 • 7:30 PM
Day Of Show
“You know how writing goes for me,” John Hiatt says, offering a glimpse into his creative process. “I get a couple of lines going, and then I just tag along as the songs start to reveal themselves. You’ve just gotta jump inside and take the ride.”
Hiatt is still very much on that ride. The Eclipse Sessions, his newest collection, offers up his strongest writing in years. Long celebrated as a skilled storyteller and keen observer of life’s twists and turns, Hiatt can get at the heart of a knotty emotion or a moment in time with just a sharp, incisive lyric or witty turn of phrase. And the 11 tracks presented here, from the breezy opener “Cry to Me,” to the stark “Nothing in My Heart,” the lost- love lamentation “Aces Up Your Sleeve” to the rollicking “Poor Imitation of God,” demonstrate that the singer-songwriter, now 66, is only getting better with age, his guitar playing more rugged and rootsy, his words wiser and more wry. There’s a grit to these songs—a craggy, perfectly-imperfect quality that colors every aspect of the performances, right down to Hiatt’s vocals, which are quite possibly his most raw and expressive to date.
“They ain’t pretty, that’s for sure,” he says about the creaks and cracks that punctuate his phrases in songs like “Poor Imitation of God” and “One Stiff Breeze.” “But I don’t mind a bit. All the catches and the glitches and the gruffness, that sounds right to me. That sounds like who I am.”
Pleasant surprises abounded during the recording of The Eclipse Sessions— and not only inside the studio. True to the album’s title, Hiatt and his band were hard atwork on the very day—August 21, 2017—a solar eclipse traveled the length of the continental U.S. “I think we recorded three songs that day, and then we took a break to go outside and watch everything happen,” Hiatt says. The eclipse itself, of course, was hardly unpredicted. But what Hiatt observed amongst his fellow Nashvillians during that moment of totality—his city was one of a few spots in the U.S. to be plunged into near complete darkness—did give him pause. “It seemed everything stopped for a minute or two,” he says. “It was like a magical little bit of time, a harmonic convergence or something. Like everybody was on the same page—and that page wasn’t Facebook! So it reminded me of old times in Nashville.”
As for whether Hiatt could have ever imagined that, at 66 years old, he’d be experiencing yet another great leap with The Eclipse Sessions? “I would never have imagined any of it,” he responds. “If you’d had told me this 40 years ago I would’ve just said, ‘C’mon…you’re pullin’ my leg!’ So to have this kind of longevity, and still be healthy and have a wife and family and kids and everybody’s doing well… no, I would never have dreamed it. I would have thought it’d gone away a long while ago.”
Gone away? Hardly. In fact, with The Eclipse Sessions, Hiatt might very well be gearing up for yet another new beginning.
He considers the possibility.
“Maybe,” he says, then laughs. “Or a last gasp! You be the judge!” He laughs again. “Either way, it’s good with me.”