Roots

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

The Eclipse Ses­sions John Hi­att New West Records That John Hi­att sounds world-weary in The Eclipse Ses­sions is en­tirely ap­po­site to an al­bum that al­ludes to the vul­ner­a­bil­ity and vi­cis­si­tude of re­la­tion­ships. The 23rd re­lease from this widely ad­mired veteran Nashville trou­ba­dour, whose songs have been cov­ered by every­body from Bob Dy­lan and BB King to Joan Baez and Joe Cocker, may not con­sti­tute easy lis­ten­ing, but it cer­tainly por­trays a raw and com­pelling pic­ture of life on the slide. The theme is set with char­ac­ter­is­tic pith in Cry to Me, a rolling alt­coun­try opener di­rected at heart­bro­ken lovers, as Hi­att drawls lines such as, “Tongue so sharp it bursts and bub­bles”. It cul­mi­nates 10 tracks later in Rob­ber’s High­way, a graphic waltz-time re­flec­tion on wan­ing pow­ers and mor­tal­ity.

Hi­att strikes a com­par­a­tively op­ti­mistic note in The Odds of Lov­ing You but in an­other bluesy con­fes­sion, Poor Im­i­ta­tion of God, coun­ters: “I do bet­ter on my own / A lovesick dog that’s got no home.” No cards are left to deal in Aces Up Your Sleeve: “There’s no light on the bar-room floors where you swept them all off their feet.” Hi­att frets about im­pend­ing dotage in the funky JJ Cale-sound­ing Over the Hill.

In the bal­lads Noth­ing in My Heart and Hide Your Tears he de­scends to bot­tom regis­ter to sing stripped-to-the-bone lyrics, while in the rock­ers All the Way to the River and One Stiff Breeze, Hi­att strains to hit the higher notes. Mind you, his gui­tar-play­ing and ar­rang­ing are ex­em­plary through­out.

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