Crossing Muddy Waters by John Hiatt
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Two and a half decades into a career that's never delivered the stardom forecast by legions of champions, John Hiatt has settled into a niche that's about as comfortable as a maturing singer-songwriter could ask for. No longer a major-label priority, Hiatt has hooked up with the stalwart folk label Vanguard for his 15th release. Crossing Muddy Waters
adroitly captures Hiatt's comfort and confidence. Not so much blues as blusey, Crossing Muddy Waters
features 11 new Hiatt compositions, half of which feel instantly familiar. The rambunctious "Lift Up Every Stone" sounds a little like some of Tom Waits
's more accessible recent efforts, while "Take It Down" is a love-lost lament that's as heavy as a foggy evening. Crossing Muddy Waters
was cut in three days and features only two accompanists--the uncommonly sympathetic Davey Faragher and David Immerglück. Just goes to show that Hiatt moves just fine when he's not dragging a lot of added weight and heavy expectations behind him. --Steven Stolder