Beneath This Gruff Exterior

Beneath This Gruff Exterior

4.0 1
by John Hiatt & the Goners
     
 

John Hiatt wasn't just whistling Dixie when he titled his latest album with a promise to give listeners a peek at his inner goings-on. On the surface, Beneath This Gruff Exterior is his most easygoing work in quite a while -- thanks in large part to his decision to reunite his band the Goners after a 15-year recording hiatus. But dig a little deeper, and theSee more details below

Overview

John Hiatt wasn't just whistling Dixie when he titled his latest album with a promise to give listeners a peek at his inner goings-on. On the surface, Beneath This Gruff Exterior is his most easygoing work in quite a while -- thanks in large part to his decision to reunite his band the Goners after a 15-year recording hiatus. But dig a little deeper, and the mood swings start to appear. They're most apparent on "Nagging Dark," a stark depiction of the singer's battle with depression -- a topic he revisits with a slightly less somber tone on "Almost Fed Up with the Blues." A similarly dark humor permeates "Fly Back Home," a hill-country plaint that could pass for bucolic until Hiatt gets to the meat of the tune: a real-life incident in which he accidentally ran over a rattlesnake and then proceeded to grind the critter into dust under his car wheels. Guitarist Sonny Landreth prods Hiatt here and there, peppering songs like "How Bad's the Coffee" -- a simultaneously clever and homespun embrace of a trip to a blue-highway diner over one to the local Starbucks -- with licks that sting and salve. Hiatt may well be better known for his songwriting -- "The Most Unoriginal Sin," included here, has been a Willie Nelson staple for a decade -- but Beneath This Gruff Exterior attests to the raw energy he's still capable of generating as a performer after all these years.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
While Beneath This Gruff Exterior is credited to John Hiatt & the Goners, a more appropriate designation might be "John Hiatt and Sonny Landreth" -- hotshot guitarist Landreth, who has held down a longtime on-and-off tenure in Hiatt's road band, spreads his licks over every nook and cranny of this album, so much so that his guitar spends about as much time in the spotlight as Mr. Hiatt himself. With the guitars turned up and Hiatt willing to push the growl of his voice to the limit, Beneath This Gruff Exterior finds Hiatt in stripped-down and rockin' form, much more so than on the albums which immediately preceded it. The production (by Don Smith with Hiatt and the band) is simple and straightforward, sounding loose and live, with Hiatt willing to let a few minor vocal glitches slip into the final mix. In short, this is a John Hiatt rock & roll album, which means his more serious songs are put on hold and stuff like "How Bad's the Coffee" and "Almost Fed Up With the Blues" find their way onto disc. But as has long been the case, Hiatt's lighter stuff still packs more emotional heft than most songwriters you could mention (especially on "Missing Pieces" and "The Most Unoriginal Sin"), and if his voice sounds as if it's starting to fray a tiny bit, he can still belt it out pretty convincingly for a guy who's been making records since 1974. The vast majority of Hiatt's albums fall into one of two categories -- brilliant and real good. Beneath This Gruff Exterior falls into the latter file, which means it isn't a revelation like Two Bit Monsters or Bring the Family, but it's got good songs sang by a great songwriter, and played by a rockin' little band with a real fine guitarist up front, and if that's not what you're looking for, you're probably not much on Hiatt anyway.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/06/2003
Label:
New West Records
UPC:
0607396604524
catalogNumber:
6045
Rank:
87745

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Hiatt & the Goners   Primary Artist
John Hiatt   Indexed Contributor,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Sonny Landreth   Dobro,Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar
Bobby Keys   Baritone Saxophone
David Ranson   Bass
Kenneth Blevins   Drums,Background Vocals

Technical Credits

John Hiatt   Producer
Doug Sax   Mastering
Don Smith   Producer,Engineer
Robert Hadley   Mastering
Kimberly Levitan   Art Direction
John Hiatt & the Goners   Producer
Goners   Producer
Jon Hiatt   Producer

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