Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns

"Damn this town/ I mean it this time," barks John Hiatt on the opening track of his 20th album. That song – a portrait of a middle-aged ne'er-do-well fleeing his dead-end hometown – sums up what Hiatt does best: character sketches of sketchy characters, set to sturdy roots rock, delivered in his craggy country-soulman's voice. Hiatt's craftsmanship is as sharp as ever. "I Love That Girl" is chugging, catchy power pop; "Detroit Made" is a loving ode to a gas-guzzling Buick. The songs are smart, but there are a few lapses of taste throughout Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns: The 9/11 ballad ("When New York Had Her Heart Broke") is a must-miss.

Listen to "Detroit Made":

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From The Archives Issue 1138: September 1, 2011
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