John Hiatt with the Jerry Douglas Band, “Leftover Feelings” (New West Records)
On “Leftover Feelings,” the powerhouse pairing of John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas starts by introducing a new musical form: the 12-bar blues gone green.
“I’ve got a long black electric Cadillac,” goes Hiatt’s opening verse. “She’ll go a thousand miles on a charge.”
Such is the spark created by this smart collaboration. Hiatt remains at the top of his game at age 68, his unvarnished tenor still a fount of wit and wisdom, while Douglas and his crack combo elevate the already charming melodies and buttress the rustic grooves. No drummer needed. The sweet twang of Douglas’ Dobro and lap steel season the set, which he produced.
It helps that Hiatt brought excellent material to the recording sessions, held in Nashville’s historic RCA Studio B. Hiatt sings about a colicky baby on “Little Goodnight,” offers love counsel on “Buddy Boy” and gives the term “hollow roots” new meaning on “Sweet Dream.” The spirited “Keen Rambler” echoes a Chuck Berry car song, but it’s about walking.
Eyes will well in response to “Light of the Burning Sun,” a wrenching remembrance of Hiatt’s eldest brother and the life he led before committing suicide in the early 1960s.
“Doing his job, doing his best,” Hiatt sings, “selling burnt orange and avocado green kitchens all across the Midwest.”
“Leftover Feelings” shows the blues can come in any color.