CD Review: John Hiatt

Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (New West)

Very few singer-songwriters cover redemption, recovery, and salvation like John Hiatt. Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns transcends those subjects, charging forth with the gritty dirge "Damn This Town," a broken American-dream requiem, and ending with "When New York Had Her Heart Broke," a post-9/11 meditation. In between, Hiatt chugs through the landscape like the conductor of a haunted steam locomotive. Hymns never exactly becomes a concept record, but an agreement transpires in the songs. Bluesy, heartland-steeped songs like "Train to Birmingham," "Detroit Made," and "Adios to California" seek healing, despite their surroundings and situations. But Hiatt isn't totally glum here. If "I Love That Girl" doesn't make you smile, you're probably searching for something too. You'll likely find it here. — Peter Chakerian