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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 1, 2003 1:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was Political scrap of the day. The next post in this blog is Hit me. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, June 1, 2003

Perfectly good album

John Hiatt is one of the few great American popular songwriters working today. I didn't start to follow his career carefully until the early '90s, when I picked up his album Stolen Moments, which blew me away. Over the next few months, I worked my way backward in his discography, through Slow Turning and Bring the Family, which were also mighty impressive and have turned out to age even better than Moments. In the aggregate, this three-record output was nothing short of phenomenal. So full of life, so wise, so heartfelt. Hiatt's voice is not the easiest in the world to spend an extended time listening to, but the songs are so good, you just have to give it a chance, and when you do, it can grow on you.

Live Hiatt shows have never disappointed. The first one I caught was at the Melody Ballroom in support of Stolen Moments. In the full clutches of a big record company, Hiatt toured with Waddy Wachtell and the rest of a gorgeous band that played the heck out of that album, and some exquisite earlier stuff as well. The next show I caught was one of my oddest live music experiences ever. It was during a summer way overbooked with outdoor concerts in Portland, and a promoter group tried something called "roots" over a few nights down in Waterfront Park. Hiatt headlined for a three- or four-act bill, and there was nobody there. I mean 100 people max. He performed an excellent acoustic solo set, and those of us who were lucky enough to be there were just shaking our heads at the incongruity of it all.

Hiatt surfaced next as the opening act for Jackson Browne at the Washington Park Rose Garden. This time it was in support of Perfectly Good Guitar, a fine album but just not in the same league with Moments/Turning/Family. The place was oversold, people were jostling each other all night, it was hard to hear at times, and the crowd was mostly there for Jackson Browne to do I'm Alive and pieces of his great songbook. But once again, Hiatt and band discharged themselves admirably.

Fast forward to a summer night gig in Pioneer Courthouse Square with Wilco, Hiatt, and Los Lobos, in that order, a couple of years ago. Wilco was interesting, but the Lobos were flat, leaving it for Hiatt to steal the show. He had with him his backup band from the Slow Turning days -- the Goners, including a guy named Sonny Landreth on guitar and slide -- and they went nuts with both that album and Bring the Family. They were tight, talented, and clearly getting off on not having to carry a whole show. They killed.

Hiatt and the Goners have now gone back in the studio and come out with a disc called Beneath This Gruff Exterior. On this small-label offering, for the first time, the band gets its name in the billing with Hiatt. It's a great band to reunite in the studio, and Hiatt has brought them 12 songs that, if not his "A" material, are "A-minus" at worst.

Musically, no new ground is broken. The sounds are familiar to any Hiatt fan who's worn out his earlier albums. But that's a good thing. Give me Landreth on guitar for a batch of new John Hiatt songs any day.

Lyrically, Gruff Exterior is classic Hiatt -- at once deep, silly, cranky, wry, smart, cuddly, brutal, cute, clever -- with great tales of love, loss, nostalgia, and a bunch of other stuff that will take a dozen more listens for me to figure out. I must complain that whoever picked the song order for the CD got it all wrong -- the first two tracks may be the weakest -- but that's easily remedied in these days of the "shuffle" button. So far I'm partial to "The Nagging Dark," where Hiatt tells the listener "You can't run away from the nagging dark / You carry it everywhere in your heart / It finishes everything that you start," but then points out, "Hope is your finest work of art."

The rollicking "Circle Back" also brings on the goosebumps. Hiatt tells how he drove his daughter to college, and then "Drove back through an empty space / Thinkin' back to when she was a baby / Tryin' hard to see that face." Meanwhile the Goners bop on, with Landreth punctuating the fatherhood narrative with bright guitar lines that hearken back to Hiatt's new dad song, "Georgia Rae," made in the '80s when the now-collegiate kid was just tiny.

It's hard for me to be objective about John Hiatt, but this is an exceedingly pleasing recording. And after a listen or two, the "shuffle" button takes this good thing and somehow improves it.

Thus, in my recent CD haul from Music Millennium, I went three for three.


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Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé 2011
Trader Joe's, Grower's Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
Vintjs, Cabernet 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
Rainstorm, Oregon Pinot Gris 2012
Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
Rodney Strong, Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Canoe Ridge, Pinot Gris, Expedition 2012
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rose 2012
Dark Horse, Big Red Blend No. 01A
Elk Cove, Pinot Noir Rose 2012
Fletcher, Shiraz 2010
Picollo, Gavi 2011
Domaine Eugene Carrel, Jongieux 2012
Eyrie, Pinot Blanc 2010
Atticus, Pinot Noir 2010
Walter Scott, Pinot Noir, Holstein 2011
Shingleback, Cabernet, Davey Estate 2010
Coppola, Sofia Rose 2012
Joel Gott, 851 Cabernet 2010
Pol Roget Reserve Sparkling Wine
Mount Eden Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2009
Rombauer Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2011
Beringer, Chardonnay, Napa Reserve 2011
Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Schloss Vollrads, Spaetlese Rheingau 2010
Belle Glos, Pinot Noir, Clark & Telephone 2010
WillaKenzie, Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvee 2010
Blackbird Vineyards, Arise, Red 2010
Chauteau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005
Northstar, Merlot 2008
Feather, Cabernet 2007
Silver Oak, Cabernet, Alexander Valley 2002
Silver Oak, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2002
Trader Joe's, Chardonnay, Grower's Reserve 2012
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Shingleback, Cabernet, Davey Estate 2010
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Santa Margherita, Pinot Grigio 2011
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1967, Toscana 2009
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Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Grigio 2011
Avignonesi, Montepulciano 2004
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Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Lorelle, Columbia Valley Cabernet 2011
Purple Moon, Merlot 2011
Purple Moon, Chardonnnay 2011
Horse Heaven Hills, Cabernet 2010
Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Grigio 2011
Avignonesi, Montepulciano 2004
Lorelle, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2007
Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Lorelle, Columbia Valley Cabernet 2011
Purple Moon, Merlot 2011
Purple Moon, Chardonnnay 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend No. 12
Opula Red Blend 2010
Liberte, Pinot Noir 2010
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red Blend 2010
Woodbridge, Chardonnay 2011
King Estate, Pinot Noir 2011
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The Occasional Book

Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 115
At this date last year: 21
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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