John Hiatt

Live from Austin TX [DVD]

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One of the best of the Austin City Limits shows now transferred to DVD in an ongoing series, John Hiatt is in rare form with a terrific band (dubbed the Guilty Dogs) on this gig from his Perfectly Good Guitar tour. About ten minutes longer than the accompanying CD, the extra time doesn't include any additional songs, but gives Hiatt time to tell some pre-song stories, which adds another dimension to the viewer's enjoyment of the show. The singer/songwriter also dedicates selections here; the solo "Have a Little Faith in Me" to Barry White (from whom he apparently got some words of advice) and a raging version of "Buffalo River Home" to Jimmie Rodgers' daughter, who had recently passed and evidently liked the tune. The extended lengths of the songs work better on DVD than on album since they are accompanied by Hiatt's active, often exaggerated stage movements and elastic facial tics, both of which bring an often humorous visual piece to the music. Additionally, as of its late 2005 release, the December 1993 performance is the only live video document available from Hiatt. He and the youngish band are in fine fettle throughout, whipping off seven tracks from the PGG album, four from Bring the Family, and the rest from Slow Turning. Guitarist Michael Ward is particularly impressive, as he glides around in a semi-circle on his Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers while whipping off sizzling leads that reverberate with a grungy twang. It's a solid, sweaty, occasionally explosive set from one of Hiatt's best periods and the Austin City Limits camera crew does its usual stellar job capturing it for posterity. The remixed surround DTS audio is also impressive. It's clean without being tricky and brings a fullness to the audio that probably sounds better on this disc than it did sitting in the studio. This is a must for any Hiatt fan and a wonderful introduction to a classic American singer/songwriter for those who have never experienced him live.

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