Montreal Gazette - Mystic Pinball

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Montreal Gazette - Mystic Pinball

Post: # 426Post Juergen » ... -new-west/

John Hiatt’s latest collection of taut, carefully-crafted songs is, perhaps, a shade brighter than its predecessor, the similarly engaging Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, but the two could easily make up a double album.
Most obviously, the core musicians are back. Guitarist Doug Lancio, bassist Patrick O’Hearn and drummer Kenneth Blevins are still equally at home with just about anything the boss can throw at them: the loose, almost second-line shuffle of We’re Alright Now, the type of Stones-ish rocker Hiatt has often favoured, in Bite Marks, or a breezy, country-flavoured plea like Give It Up.
The latter track, typically, musically contradicts its dark subject matter with a joyful hook. The melodies here — pay special attention to the sweet, compassionate No Wicked Grin — are stellar, and the grooves are industrial strength.
And with Kevin Shirley’s no-frills production giving each instrument a forceful presence and its own turf, Mystic Pinball sounds as forceful as you might expect.

On Hiatt’s 21st album, little remains to be said about the often damaged characters who inhabit his stories. The first-person protagonist in the bluesy Wood Chipper, for example, dies shortly after the song reaches the halfway point and tells the rest of the tale from the Great Beyond. The rough mate in the sizzling My Business wants to put her man “down in that box.” The singer in Blues Can’t Even Find Me can’t even find a name for “feelin’ nothin’.”

As usual, though, the darkness often comes with humour, and the joy brings more than a bit of worry. In the end, few can flesh out the emotional terrain of their songs as simply and eloquently as Hiatt.
Rating: ****
Podworthy: No Wicked Grin
(John Hiatt and the Combo perform Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. at Club Soda, 1225 St. Laurent Blvd. Roxanne Potvin is the supporting act. Tickets cost $49.50. Phone 514-286-1010 or go to

Click here to listen to We’re Alright Now. And here’s a live performance of No Wicked Grin:
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