John Hiatt @ The Shed: Maryville, TN 7/12/08

John Hiatt reminisces about days gone by on his new CD Same Old Man

“Old Days are coming back to me.
I don’t know what was so great about ’em.
I played practically free,
But I had nothing to live up to
And everywhere to be.
Old Days are coming back to me.”

These days, Hiatt has plenty to live up to. Hiatt is one of the most successful and respected songwriters of his generation. “Angel Eyes” from the Jeff Healey Band, “Drive South” from Suzy Bogguss, “The Way We Make a Broken Heart” from Rosanne Cash, “Sure as I’m Sittin’ Here” from Three Dog Night, and “Thing Called Love” from Bonnie Raitt, to name a few, all came from Hiatt’s pen. This September, he will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association at their annual awards show in Nashville. This very week, Same Old Man sits in the top spot on the Americana Album Airplay Chart.

Saturday night, John Hiatt played The Shed in Maryville, TN with his current touring band The Ageless Beauties. Hiatt was on his game as he mixed in several old favorites with a good sampling of tunes from the new album.

The setlist:
The Tiki Bar is Open
Master of Disaster
Drive South
Let’s Give This Love a Try
Cherry Red
Cry Love (slow version)
Walk On
Old Days
On with You
Love You Again
Lift up Every Stone
Crossing Muddy Waters
Paper Thin
Slow Turning
Hurt My Baby
Riding with the King
~set break~
Tennessee Plates
Memphis in the Meantime

The highlight of the show for me was a slowed down version of “Cry Love” featuring beautiful atmospheric guitar work from Doug Lancio. The studio version of “Cry Love” has been my favorite Hiatt song for a while due mostly to a great arrangement built around a crisp chiming guitar riff, a sharp snare backbeat, and flourishes of mandolin. This new version, however, was hardly recognizable to me through most of its extended intro. My wife and I went through a few rounds of, “Is this ‘Cry Love?'” “No it can’t be.” “Wait… is it?” Just before the vocals came in, it became clear. It also became clear that Hiatt was taking a bit of chance by playing around with one of his fan favorite songs, but it paid off. Lancio (more on him later) was a big part of the success, replacing the crisp acoustic strums of the original with layers of swirling electric rhythms. I’d love to find a copy of this version.

In the encore, Hiatt played to the Tennessee crowd by dusting off two more of his classics that deal with the Volunteer State; “Tennessee Plates” and “Memphis in the Meantime.” The latter song included a sing along and some more fancy guitar work from Hiatt and Lancio. A solid end to a great show.

After the show my wife and I got to go backstage for a brief “Meet & Greet” with Hiatt. We got a handshake, an autograph, and a brief conversation. Hiatt was very gracious as he listened to my ramblings about how much I like the new album, the old albums, etc… We thought it was a great way to end the night…

Then, on the way out, we bumped into Doug Lancio. Lancio is a producer/musician who is probably best known for producing Patty Griffin’s 1,000 Kisses album and serving as her lead guitarist for the last several years. He’s also producing Scott Miller’s new project that’s scheduled to be released later this year. We caught Patty Griffin twice on her last tour and became especially impressed with Lancio’s live chops. It was a pleasant surprise to see him with Hiatt’s band Saturday night.

These days, John Hiatt may feel pressured to live up the reputation he has earned through his thirty-plus years in the music business. However, he continues to build on that reputation with each new release and each show he plays. Here are a couple tracks from the new album, Same Old Man and a couple of classics.

John Hiatt: Old Days (Buy the Album)
John Hiatt: On with You (Buy the Album)
John Hiatt: Cry Love (Buy the Album)
John Hiatt: Memphis in the Meantime (Buy the Album)

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