John Hiatt: Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns
“Dirty jeans and mudslide hymns” is a line from Adios To California, one of the best songs on John Hiatt’s new album, which is full of good songs. Here he is playing the song earlier this summer (as Lyle Lovett looks on):
Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns also includes a train song – shouldn’t every record have one? The CD begins with a song damning one town and ends with an ode to another town’s broken heart. In between, its songs tell of continuing love, infatuation, the Nashville flood and a Buick Electra 225. Listening to the album the past few days, I am reminded that John Hiatt has few peers in the songwriting business. He’s proved this over and over again the past 40 years with songs like Memphis In The Meantime, Angel Eyes, Tennessee Plates, Thing Called Love, Drive South, Feels Like Rain, Riding With The King and The Way We Make A Broken Heart, among others.
40 years ago is when Mr. Hiatt wrote the train song, Train To Birmingham. I’m glad he got around to recording it. The chorus goes like this: “And I lie when I have to/And I cry when I can/But I die a little slower/On the train to Birmingham.” He switches lying and crying around the second time he sings the chorus and it makes you think about both a little differently. This is the thing about Mr. Hiatt, he always makes you think about things a little differently.
Different would be a start toward describing the narrator in Damn This Town, a rock song that starts the album off on a heavy note. He’s almost 60, still living at home, “and I can’t let my mama tell you what her youngest boy did.” I’m thinking he’s the youngest boy, and what he did was pretty bad. Take a look at the official video for this tune, which includes some scenes from the recording sessions:
Mr. Hiatt told UKmusic City that he never intended to record the last song on the album, When New York Had Her Heart Broke. [Here and here are links to the two-part interview.] He wrote the song almost ten years ago after being in the city on 9/11. He played it occasionally when in New York, thinking the song didn’t belong on an album because it was something between the people of that city and him. His producer (who was living there at the time of the attack) convinced him that he should put the song on Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. It’s fitting, I think, as we approach the 10-year anniversary, to have a hymn that focuses on the sadness caused by the terrible act, rather than the cause of the terrible act. The song starts out as if it were an instrumental, then carries this simple message:
And I was there that day
And I don’t know what to say
Except, New York had her heart broke
New York had her heart broke
Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns was produced by Kevin Shirley. Mr. Shirley has an impressive resume as a producer and mixer, mostly with rock and hard rock acts, including Iron Maiden, Rush and Slayer. The album was recorded on CLASP (Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor), which provides the “warmth” of analog recording with the ease of digital. I typed that like I know what I’m talking about, but you can click the link to see what Mr. Hiatt thinks about the technology. Whatever the reason, the album has a great sound. Speaking of sound, Mr. Hiatt’s voice and guitar are joined by bandmates Patrick O’hearn, Doug Lancio and Kenneth Blevins. Doug Henthorn, Russ Pahl, Arlan Schierbaum and Reese Wynans also appear on the album.
Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns is on New West Records.
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