Well it has been a while since I wandered to the keyboard for a few notes on things. Sorry. I recently got to take a road trip with my daughter. We drove from home to college in her car and moved her in to her sophomore dorm. Lessons from the trip include: the danger of poorly prepared fast food burgers (a night of unpleasantness and rapid weight loss in my case); the importance of elevators (equal access and all that, but mostly heavy shit and summer heat should make them required in EVERY college dorm); and it is not the size of the living space it is the size of the living in the space. Oh, and, daughters that are sophomores in college are about the coolest thing out there when it comes to just tackling the world at large and showing what it means to wear your confidence on your sleeve. At least mine is.
High school is back in session, so the neighborhood is back to its unofficial role of adjunct school parking lot for relatively new drivers (most seniors have spaces at school). I was reminded yesterday of how it felt to load up the car at the end of the day and crank up the radio and punch the throttle. I had my mouth open to do the proper “old man in the neighborhood preaching responsibility” yell to slow down, but then I caught the driver’s eye, or more specifically the sparkle therein, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Remember what that felt like? Windows were down, school was out for another 18 hours or so and man oh man. Not that I intend to endorse this sort of reckless behavior, but for one day at least, I looked back and then I looked the other way.
Speaking of looking back. John Hiatt is touring in support of his new album “Mystic Pinball” with the exceptional combo backing him and another collection of spectacular songs. We got to see him last night. His recipe of razor sharp lyrics that tell a story with no pretense, no irony, no punches pulled mixed with a quality of musicianship that just astounds me was as delicious as ever. His ability to look back and across the experiences that populate a life and render them with wit, passion, and warmth in his song craft is the stuff of legend.
He is a performer of the first order and seems genuinely thankful that folks will spend money to see and hear him do what I suspect is the only thing he actually has to do. I love the way he recognizes the combo, both because he clearly loves playing with them and because they are simply magnificent craftsmen. Kenneth Blevins does more than any drummer I have ever heard to lock your pulse rate to the song and support the lyrics with perfectly tuned and timed cymbal splats and shotgun toms. His breaks are sharp enough to draw blood and are the foundation on which John builds his vocal stylings. Nathan Gheri rolls the rhythm section along with impressive, but not obvious bass work. It’s exactly where you want it to be and no where in the way. Doug Lancio stands in the shoes of Hiatt guitarists like Ry Cooder, Sonny Landreth, Dave Immergluck, Luther Dickinson(!) and, well, he basically pulls the laces out of them, turns them inside out and says, no disrespect, but now we’re going to try it this way. He has a magic pedal board and steady stream of different guitars all coming at just the right time to bring another sonic smorgasboard of steel string support to the party. I haven’t got a clue how he managed to make some of the sounds he made, but I will say Hiatt has never built a wall of sound and moved it from room to emotional room like he does with Doug. (I’ve seen him maybe 20 times over the years, so this is the limit of my experience.) Hiatt just turned 60 and with his list of songwriting and tour work it is telling that after each of the last three shows we’ve seen, the ride back has been peppered with “best show he’s ever done” comments.
When you’ve wandered as far and wide as John Hiatt and you are still exceeding yourself at each turn you must know where you are going. I don’t know where I’m going, but an occasional ride with my daughter, a teenagers twinkling eyes and musical trip with John Hiatt sure are making the journey interesting.