The Tiki Bar Is Open

John Hiatt

Vanguard Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


I think having John Hiatt around is good for the American soul. Whatever crap might float to the surface of our collective popular music cesspool, there's Hiatt, playing half a block down at a smoky bar, or having other people (Three Dog Night, Jeff Healey, Bonnie Raitt) charting singles with songs he wrote. I may not always like John Hiatt, but the man is at least sincere and he continues a remarkable career with his second CD for Vanguard Records, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Tiki Bar Is Open.

Hiatt has spent his entire career bouncing back and forth between being an acoustic folkie and a three-chord rock and roller, and Tiki falls firmly on the electric side of things. For the first time since 1988, he's back with his electric band, the Goners, which includes bayou slide guitar impresario Sonny Landreth, and Landreth's electrifying, lashing guitar licks keep an edge on Tiki sometimes lacking in Hiatt's work. In addition, Hiatt's work continues to grow more and more like artists he admits are a huge influence on how he views music, The Band. What in the hands of lesser musicians might be slavish imitation becomes art on Tiki.

Hiatt remains a consummate songwriter. With references as widespread and varied as Ray Milland in the cinematic classic Lost Weekend ("All The Lilacs In Ohio") to the poetry of Guillaume Appolinaire ("Farther Stars"), he proves himself a master of phrase and pacing, one of the better songwriters out there. "Something Broken" is a wistful, sad look back at a long, varied, harried life; "Everybody Went Low" is a three-chord manic romp; "Rock Of Your Love" is a slide guitar masterpiece; and "The Tiki Bar Is Open" is an eerie tribute to the undiluted Americana of Hiatt's second home, Daytona Beach.

There are only a couple of misses. To my ears, at least, "I Know A Place" is forced, stretching Hiatt's vocals beyond the spraining point, and the first single, "My Old Friend", is a little too clever for its own good. But these are minor, at best.

Overall, The Tiki Bar Is Open is an excellent edition to Hiatt's catalog, a fun piece of rock and roll, and definitely worth grabbing.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Vanguard Records, and is used for informational purposes only.