AUSTIN, Texas When blues superstars
COLOR="#003163">Eric Clapton COLOR="#003163">B.B. King
COLOR="#003163">B.B. Kingwanted a title cut
for their stellar collaborative album, they turned to
song book for his 1983 album Ridin' With the
Hiatt himself was riding high Friday night onstage at
KLRU-TV on the sixth floor of the Communications
Building at the University of Texas as he kicked off a new
season of taping for the long-running "Austin City
Limits" TV show.
Tearing into "Lincolntown," a rocking folk-blues tale
of a man leaving a town that's done him wrong, Hiatt
and his compatriots, Davey
Faragher on bass and
COLOR="#003163">Counting Crows COLOR="#003163">David Immergluck
COLOR="#003163">David Immergluckon mandolin, set a blazing
pace that only got hotter as their 11-song set
Blending a tale of sorrow, searching and bittersweet
memory with an insistent rhythm and shimmering fills
from Immergluck's mandolin, the trio next offered
"Crossing Muddy Waters."
That's the title track of Hiatt's next record, due in
September on Vanguard. Many of the songs on that album
are about breaking up, Hiatt said, remarking: "I only
realized that in retrospect, and I decided I had to
sit down and have a little talk with my wife. ... You
know, 'Honey, we're not breaking up unless you know
something I don't know,'" he said to appreciative
laughter from the audience.
"There's really a kind of Walter Mitty sort of life
you live as a songwriter, at least I do," he went on.
"You get to try things out you know, you have a little
tiff with the wife, and you write a breakup song.
People tend to take it as autobiographical, but really,
Love And Loss
Following with one of the slower songs of the evening,
"What Do We Do Now?," Hiatt displayed another side to
his writing style, using a series of simple,
repetitive lines to draw a picture of a man at the wrenching
end of a relationship. It's a change from the intricate
wordplay for which Hiatt's better known.
Smiling, he dedicated it to "a record-company guy of a
company I'm no longer with. He's one of the few people
ever to tell me 'John, you know, you need to write
more words in the lyrics.' I'm a pretty verbose guy,"
Hiatt said, "and usually they're telling me I need to cut
it down some!"
Picking up the pace again, Hiatt launched into a
surreal journey through changes in faces, places, and times
called "Only the Song Survives." The journey became
darker and the music hotter with "Lift up Every Stone,"
a gospel-infused Southern-gothic tale of truth and
lies, which featured tight harmonies by the three men and
had all of the 400 people in the audience clapping
As the "Austin City Limits" video technicians worked
their magic to capture Hiatt and company (who have been
touring as the Queenston
Trio with this summer's Newport Folk Festival
road show), the three men again let their harmonies
reach the rafters on another driving tale of love lost,
"Take It Down," then launched into "Gone," a lighter
song with an ironic look at the same topic.
"Now I'll play you one I think you're gonna know,"
Hiatt, dressed simply in a short-sleeved striped shirt,
dark pants, white socks and dark loafers, said before
launching into "Cry Love" (
excerpt), which included a blazing electric
guitar solo by Immergluck.
Hiatt, whose songs have been recorded by artists
including Bob Dylan,
COLOR="#003163">Rodney Crowell COLOR="#003163">Emmylou Harris COLOR="#003163">Willie Nelson COLOR="#003163">Paula Abdul
COLOR="#003163">Paula Abdul, then offered two tunes
from his back pages, "Perfectly Good Guitar" (
excerpt) and the outlaw song (with several
twists) "Tennessee Plates."
With that rocking travelers' tale, featuring Hiatt's
distinctive nasal voice against the harmonies of
Immerglaub and Faragher, the trio left the stage to a
standing ovation with the stamping its feet calling for
The three responded with an encore of "Thing Called
HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Eddd-XXXXXX%2F0238499_0103_00_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt COLOR="#003163">Bonnie Raitt
COLOR="#003163">Bonnie Raitttook to hit status.
Using his own unique phrasing and rhythm, Hiatt gave
the writer's version of the tune, featuring an extended
instrumental jam which saw him dancing to Immergluck's
guitar improvisations and even throwing in a bit of
scat-singing to keep the groove going.
Rocking the rafters of the studio, the trio made three
instruments and three voices sound like a full-out
rock orchestra, and once again brought the audience to
its feet in admiration.
The hour-long set, which will be edited to 30 minutes
for the series, is expected to air in October when
"Austin City Limits" begins its 26th season.