So last week I caught John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender. Timed to coincide with the release of the new album of the same name, the show covers a lot of the well-known Hiatt hits. Stuff like “Drive south,” “Tennessee Plates,” “Thing Called Love,” and “Slow Turning.” Back in the late 90s Hiatt appeared on The Band’s final album Jubilation, and paid homage to them on his own release, The Tiki Bar is Open. So it shouldn’t have surprised me to see him get his Irish up, about halfway through the broadcast.
Easing into “Feels like Rain,” Hiatt starts to channel Van Morrison. The lead guitar seems to have the necessary restraint, echoing the sexual tension in the lyrics, the slow build up, the anticipation. The background vocal recalls the 80s Van records. Then Hiatt begins to call up Van on a transcontinental connection, bringing the volume down, and going into a hoarse plea. “Just cause we’re in for stormy weather ain’t no reason for us to leave.” And then, “It feels like rain, baby, it feels like rain, feels like rain, baby can you feel it, can you feel it, can you feel it...” His voice drops to a whisper, the band gets real quiet, and Hiatt starts shushing them, the way Van does when he wants you to hear the silence. Flipping cool… Catch it if you can.
And while you’re at it, go get the new album. Hiatt’s glorious gravel-growl of a voice is in top form and the songwriting is some of his best ever. On the song “Wind Don’t Have to Hurry,” Hiatt sounds scary as John Lee Hooker ever did. The comparison to Hooker is appropriate because Terms of My Surrender is essentially a blues album. Hiatt plays acoustic guitar and harmonica, and the whole venture is a real gem.