There appear to be no truth to the rumor that the organizers of the Telluride Blues and Brews Music Festival will be adding ‘Buckets’ of rain to the title though it would have been more than appropriate for this year’s celebration. However in spite of a relentless deluge the little festival that could basked in it’s 20th anniversary with transcendent performances of artists both young and old.
Weekend highlights include the maturing ZZ Ward’s set which was so sunny in attitude fans quickly forget the raindrops and Gary Clark Jr.’s blistering guitar which was augmented by nature’s double rainbow light show that seemed to confirm the guitar gods were pleased with his performance.
But the biggest ray of sunshine was brought by the multi mega watt smile of the legendary John Hiatt. Hiatt is an American treasure of songwriting and though his personal fame has never matched his prowess, numerous artists and a legion of fans have known for sometime of his greatness. Hiatt’s show was a typical performance- professionalism personified and always the smile.
Hiatt’s songs have been recorded by legends like Bonnie Raitt, BB King, Eric Clapton and dozens of others. He has released more than 24 albums in a career spanning 40 years. And though his performances are note perfect renditions of his classics, it is the smile and thrill he brings to his art that makes a Hiatt concert a thrill. If you are a John Hiatt fan you never leave a show disappointed.
He is artist that has the respect of his fellow performers yet still conjures casual music fans to ask John Who?
Though most consider “Bring the Family” and “Slow Turning” as his best albums, in a world of downloading single songs, I thought I’d provide a Hiatt primer of his best songs and the best way to spend a buck.
“Paper Thin”- The opening line is one of the best ever committed to art. “I was going to get up off that barstool just as soon as I figured it out.” And like many of Hiatt’s compositions there is the ray of hope at the end as our downtrodden protagonist gets a vote of confidence, “Maybe some paper doll with a pasted on smile would let you write her number down.” Write this number down it’s one of the best songs ever written.
“Memphis In The Meantime”- listen to this one with admiration for his “back up” band-Ry Cooder on guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums. As the song says it’s a “sound as sweet as sin.”
“Thing Called Love”- Even John Hiatt readily acknowledges this song as his moneymaker but not for his emotional version. Bonnie Raitt made a decent hit out of it, but Hiatt’s version benefits from the same power trio that carries “Memphis.”
“Icy Blue Heart”- Raitt, Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt have all laid down sultry versions of this lament and I suggest you put down your lunch money to buy Hiatt’s version. All you need to know is that “his beer was warmer than the look in her eyes.”
Like his high wattage smile and his engaging lyrics worthy of a Pulitzer prize, John Hiatt speaks the truth now more people need to hear it.