Home Read Classic Album Review: John Hiatt | The Tiki Bar is Open

Classic Album Review: John Hiatt | The Tiki Bar is Open

Sonny Landreth helps the veteran artist get back in touch with his inner rocker.

This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


There are few musical events more satisfying than the artistic rebirth of a veteran performer who’s been in a slump. Especially when said performer is someone of the caliber of roots-rock master John Hiatt.

After losing the plot for most of the ’90s — and eventually losing his major-label deal in the process — Hiatt regained his songwriting voice on last year’s acoustic jewel Crossing Muddy Waters. Now, on his 16th disc The Tiki Bar is Open, he gets back in touch with his inner rocker. Reteaming with his old band The Goners — led by slide guitar magician Sonny Landreth — Hiatt plugs in his Telecaster, stomps on the distortion box and tears through a set of tracks that rock harder than anything he’s done since 1988’s Slow Turning (not coincidentally, his last disc with The Goners). The four-square bar-band rocker Everybody Went Low, the bounding two-step All the Lilacs in Ohio and the woozy Waitsian ska-blues title cut stand up with any of Hiatt’s classics — and even flirt with electronic rhythms and production that tastefully contemporize his sound. Not to worry, though; there’s plenty of Hiatt’s old-school jangle and downhome groove on hickory-smoked gems like Hangin’ Round Here and My Old Friend. Whatever Hiatt’s serving in his tiki bar, I’ll take another round.