John Hiatt: The Eclipse Sessions
John Hiatt was in the grips of his first-ever extended writer’s block following the release of 2014’s Terms of My Surrender . When he finally emerged and began composing and recording, a total solar eclipse shrouded Nashville—where he was at work cutting the new songs—in darkness. It only lasted a brief while, but it was inspiring enough to provide the singer-songwriter with a title and the impetus to keep going. Hey, whatever it takes, right? The Eclipse Sessions is a solid, if not exceptional, addition to Hiatt’s 40-plus-year catalog: 11 new self-composed tunes of mixed tempos and outlooks, some more rocking than others, some flirting with vintage down-home country, all of them instilled with the authenticity and hominess that’s always marked Hiatt’s output. It reaches a fever pitch of sorts with “Poor Imitation of God,” an easy-nuff confession to make, leading to a punchline that’ll break your heart. “Robber’s Highway,” which closes it out, shuffles along tidily, with Hiatt’s now-sandpapery delivery addressing a litany of losses, among them a barely disguised reference to the above-noted artistic stalemate: “I had words, chords and strings,” he sings. “Now I don’t have any of those things.” A highlight is “Over the Hill,” which saves itself from becoming the usual woe-isme meditation on aging by virtue of Hiatt’s humor and word-sculpting proficiency: “No time to fill the cup/ no time to screw it up/ We’ll have to place our bets/ on the dog with no regrets.” We’ll take what we can get.