Album Reviews: Master of Disaster by John HiattIt's a fair certainty at this point that John Hiatt is going to be sticking with the roots rock game plan he's been using since the late '80s. The sound is working for him, and he receives respect from many of the most revered rock musicians in the world. He has worked extensively with Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe, and his music has been covered by everyone from Conway Twitty to Bonnie Raitt (who scored a massive hit in 1989 with Hiatt's "Thing Called Love") to Iggy Pop. He's earned the right to rest on his laurels.
Master of Disaster reaffirms the notion that while Hiatt isn't making too much artistic progress, he's firmly in the pocket and will probably always make very decent roots rock. He covers all his bases on this album, from the bluesy "Ain't Ever Goin' Back" to the galloping, poppy "Thunderbird." He does ace honky-tonk with "Wintertime Blues" and moving folk with "Cold River." He even scores with straight-ahead, classic rock 'n' roll in the piercing "Love's Not Where We Thought We Left It," the album's most moving track.
Hiatt has a certain flare, and he's a master of a dying musical form. It's something of a shame that, after John Hiatt's significant contribution to American music, the singer-songwriter should be relegated to smaller labels (this is his second New West release, after putting out a pair of albums on Vanguard). But his core audience is definitely a product of his by-now niche songwriting. It's a sound that is slowly fading away, but it remains an iconic, classic taste of late-20th century Americana. - Cory O'Malley
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