John Hiatt

Live From Austin, TX

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John Hiatt was touring behind his self-described "midlife crisis album," 1993's Perfectly Good Guitar -- on which he teamed up with a raucous (and noticeably younger) rock & roll band for backup -- when he appeared on PBS' venerable music series Austin City Limits to tape a set with his young guns in tow. Live from Austin, TX documents the full 74-minute show Hiatt and his band played that night, with Hiatt and School of Fish guitarist Michael Ward giving the tunes plenty of six-string firepower, and drummer Michael Urbano and bassist Davey Faragher holding down the backbeat with lots of muscle. While Hiatt the vocalist has always been something of an acquired taste, here he gives the songs as much blues-charged bellow as he can offer, and the truth of the matter is he sounds like he's having a great time. He also seems willing to stretch out the songs as far as they want to go, and one might argue that "Your Dad Did," "Something Wild," and "Thing Called Love" didn't need to be stretched out to six minutes and change each. But Hiatt the songwriter has always commanded attention as one of the best tunesmiths America has to offer, and here he delivers 14 good to exceptional songs with plenty of heart, soul, and sweat. If this disc is pretty atypical for Hiatt these days (not to mention that this tour was already documented on the album Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan?), it's still good fun for fans and proves the man knows how to rock out when he's of a mind.

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