John Hiatt

The Eclipse Sessions

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John Hiatt's best work often comes when he seems to be looking inward and baring a bit of his soul, as he did on his 1987 masterpiece, Bring the Family. Of course, most folks have only so many demons to reveal to their public, and by all accounts Hiatt is far from the reprobate he was in his younger days. But he seems to remember the long shadows of his past with clarity, and on 2018's The Eclipse Sessions, he appears to be taking a look into the more unforgiving parts of his nature and trying to make sense of it all. "Poor Imitation of God" and "Nothing in My Heart" are plainspoken meditations on his failings as a partner and as a man, "Over the Hill" has less to do with age than his distance from the people in his life, "Hide Your Tears" contemplates the pain that comes from his misdeeds, and "Robber's Highway" is sung in the voice of a man at the end of his life with more regrets than blessings to show for a life spent on the road. Only Hiatt can know just how autobiographical any of these tunes may be, but even if they're all fiction, The Eclipse Sessions rings true as the work of someone who has been thinking a lot about human frailty and the consequences of the choices we all must make. Hiatt is too smart to pretend he has answers to any of the emotional puzzles he's working in these tunes, but he sounds fearlessly honest as he ponders it all, and the grain in his voice gives the right texture to his contemplative delivery. And the arrangements and production on The Eclipse Sessions are well matched to the material; Hiatt's band (Yates McKendree on guitar, Patrick O'Hearn on bass, Kenneth Blevins on drums, Kevin McKendree on keys) lays a lean but eloquent groove behind his performances, and the audio is rich and clear. One hopes for his sake that John Hiatt's life is happier than The Eclipse Sessions may suggest, but either way he's given us a dark night of the soul that's compelling and beautifully crafted.

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