BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Both an iconoclast and an eccentric, John Hiatt has always remained an insightful singer/songwriter, one capable of touching on topics as varied as party time at tiki bars, male pattern baldness and the wastefulness of smashing perfectly guitars. With Terms of My Surrender, he unashamedly opts for matters of the heart with a set of songs based entirely on the blues.
On the surface, this no-frills approach may seem something of a step backward, but thanks to Hiatt’s marble-mouthed vocals and determinedly gritty demeanor, it’s all adapted well. Case in point — the scratchy folk invocation of “Marlene,” the swampy sing-along “Wind Don’t Have To Hurry” and the slow shuffle of “Long Time Coming” belie the basic template. Hiatt’s sly sense of humor is less obvious this time around, but happily a hint of that snarky sentiment still prevails, especially in the narrative detailing how his mate has given him the boot (“Baby’s Gonna Kick”) and the bold if politically incorrect condemnation of senior citizens and their nasty habits (“Old Man,” a song Randy Newman would undoubtably take to heart).
If, after four decades, Terms of My Surrender appears to take a change of tune, in Hiatt’s hands it’s a winning formula regardless.
DOWNLOAD: “Old People,” “Marlene,” “Baby’s Gonna Kick”