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Albums Of The Week: John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band | Leftover Feelings

The veteran singer-songwriter & the dobo king join forces on a rootsy masterwork.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band’s Leftover Feelings was recorded at Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville. A meeting of two American music giants in a legendary setting, Leftover Feelings is neither a bluegrass album nor a return to Hiatt’s 1980s days with slide guitar greats Ry Cooder and Sonny Landreth. There’s no drummer, yet these grooves are deep and true. And while the up-tempo songs are, as ever, filled with delightful internal rhyme and sly aggression, The Jerry Douglas Band’s empathetic musicianship nudges Hiatt to performances that are startlingly vulnerable.

Historic RCA Studio B was one of the cradles of the Nashville Sound in the 1950s and ’60s. A sophisticated style characterized by background vocals and strings, the Nashville Sound and Studio B played major roles in establishing Nashville’s identity as an international recording center. Hitmakers in Studio B included Country Music Hall of Fame members Eddy Arnold, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley and more. Songs recorded within its walls span decades, genres and emotions, with Presley’s forlorn Are You Lonesome Tonight? and Dolly Parton’s autobiographical Coat of Many Colors among them.

Photo by David McClister.

Built when Hiatt was five years old, Studio B was designed for music to be made in real time by musicians listening to each other and reacting in the emotional moment. That’s what happened here: Five players on the studio floor, making decisions on instinct rather than calculation. “I was immediately taken back to 1970, when I got to Nashville,” said Hiatt upon entering the studio. A half-century ago, Hiatt lived in a ratty, $15-a-week room on Nashville’s 16th Avenue, less than a mile away from RCA and Columbia studios that were the heartbeat of what had come to be known as Music Row. “You can’t not be aware of the records that were made there … Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings doing Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line (referenced in the new song The Music is Hot). But that history wasn’t intimidating, because it’s such a comfortable place to make music.”

Hiatt’s lyrics and melodies have graced more than 20 studio albums, have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, B.B. King & Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop and scores of others, and have earned him a place in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, a BMI Troubadour award, and a lifetime achievement in songwriting designation from the Americana Music Association. Douglas, a Dobro master who reinvented the instrument and is responsible for bringing it to popular presence in modern times, has performed on more than 1,500 albums by artists including Ray Charles, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs and James Taylor, and none of those works sound a bit like the new and masterful Leftover Feelings.”