John Hiatt – Master Songwriter Spins Out His 22nd Studio Album

John Hiatt released his new album, “Terms of My Surrender”, in July.   While not a household name, Hiatt has a loyal following among fans and musicians alike.  His songs have been covered on stage or in the studio by artists ranging from Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, to Willie Nelson and Rosanne Cash, to Bonnie Raitt and Keith Urban.  In his own albums and on stage, Hiatt has played alongside fellow singer-songwriters Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Lyle Lovett and with a host of great musicians.

The opening track of the new album “Long Time Comin'” is the song Hiatt is performing most in his TV and radio promotional gigs, but also check out the last track “Come Back Home”.

Hiatt’s most successful string of albums were recorded for A&M and then Capitol between 1987 and 1998. The first of those albums, “Bring the Family”, includes the song “Have a Little Faith in Me”. It’s one of Hiatt’s most covered songs, and his version has showed up in the soundtracks of a number of movies. Here is John performing the song at the time it was released.

1995’s “Walk On” included the song “Cry Love”. Here’s a live unplugged performance backed by a couple of great session musicians, Davey Faragher on bass and David Immergluck on mandolin.

Before you leave give a listen to “Memphis in the Meantime”, also from “Bring the Family”. That’s Ry Cooder’s slide guitar giving the track a completely unique sound.

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Happy 65th Nick Lowe!

This week we indulge in a bit of nostalgia for a true rock hero, Nick Lowe. One of the central figures of New Wave music in the late ’70s, Lowe is a musician, singer, songwriter, producer who’s done great work for decades.

In 1979 Lowe wrote a song that became a big hit for Elvis Costello, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. The track appeared on the U.S. release of Costello’s third album “Armed Forces”, one of five albums that Lowe produced for Costello. The video below includes Lowe sitting in with Costello in 1987. The lyrics are for all time.

Lowe also wrote “Cruel to Be Kind” in 1979, and it appeared on Lowe’s second album, “Labour of Lust”.  The video is apparently a reenactment of Lowe’s wedding to Carlene Cash (playing herself in the video), granddaughter of Johnny Cash.  Dave Edmunds, another icon of New Wave and bandmate of Lowe’s in Rockpile, plays the limo driver.

Fun fact: both of Lowe’s songs were among the videos played on MTV’s first day of broadcasting on August 1, 1981.

In 1987 Nick played on John Hiatt’s album “Bring the Family”, a recording that marked the beginning of the upward trajectory in Hiatt’s tremendous career. The other musicians who played on that album were guitar virtuoso and musicologist Ry Cooder, and session drummer extraordinaire Jim Keltner. That lineup came together again to release an album as “Little Village” in 1992. Here’s a performance of “Fool Who Knows” featuring Lowe on vocals.

Lowe’s latest effort, released in October 2013, was a Christmas album. His voice is clear as ever. While it’s a bit late (or early) to play Christmas music, file the thought away and just listen to a bit of this track.

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Great Music in Any Language

People around the world listen to music with English lyrics whether or not they understand the language.  Great music comes through regardless. The links below will likely challenge your language skills, but the great music certainly comes through regardless.

Japan is chock full of great rock bands, and one we’d love to see tour the U.S. is Asian Kung-Fu Generation.   AKG wrote lyrics in English for their first EP in 2000, but most of their catalog is in their native language.  The track translated “Blue Train”, performed live in the clip below, was a hit single from “Fan Club”.  It shows off their nifty rhythms and song structures.

Thandiswa Mazwai is a South African singer/songwriter who wins music awards regularly in her home country, and who also performs internationally.  The track below appeared on “Zabalaza”.

“Buena Vista Social Club” was a worldwide sensation when it was released in 1997.   American guitarist and musicologist Ry Cooder brought together many of Cuba’s greatest musicians to record what would become the biggest selling Cuban album of all time.   The first track, “Chan Chan”, was written by Compay Segundo.

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