To paraphrase a musical icon, John Hiatt has been a poet, a pauper, and a pawn. He also wrote "Riding with the King." What he hasn't been is a household name. That's a shame, because Hiatt has forged one of the most consistently satisfying canons of any contemporary American singer-songwriter. This double-disc, 40-song anthology charts Hiatt's sometimes stormy, always compelling course across more than a half-dozen record labels and nearly as many styles. Beginning with his early days as a Nashville hired gun (including "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here," a song Three Dog Night
took to the top 20), this collection's first disc documents Hiatt's restless early career, which bounded off early Dylan
(who covered the songwriter's "The Usual") and Stones
influences, through nascent L.A. punk, and on to healthy Elvis obsessions (both Presley
); indeed, songs like "My Edge of the Razor" and "She Loves the Jerk" sound like Costello outtakes. The second chapter chronicles Hiatt boiling off his rich, disparate influences in the mid-'80s to find his own true voice--and again forging successes for others with songs, like his sly original version of Bonnie Raitt
's comeback hit, "Thing Called Love." By the collection's final tracks ("Take It Down" and "Crossing Muddy Waters," from the 2000 album
named after the latter), Hiatt had come full circle, again embracing his country-blues roots, but in a stripped-down acoustic setting that only underscored his gifts of observation and musical storytelling. --Jerry McCulley
This ultimate John Hiatt anthology covers every phase of his career, from his early Epic LPs to his MCA, Geffen, A&M, Capitol and Vanguard recordings; here are his original versions of Thing Called Love; Riding with the King; Drive South , and more; trademark classics like Have a Little Faith in Me and Memphis in the Meantime ; rare outtakes and live tracks, and more. 40 tracks on 2 CDs!