The Open Road

[New West]

From 1986’s Bring the Family forward, John Hiatt had a reputation for being rock’s poet laureate of complex contentedness, singularly gifted at chronicling the joys of family and sobriety in a way that still sounded complicated, messy, poetic and greasy. Even so, there were a few of us longtime fans who hankered for Hiatt to get back in touch with the more malcontented side he showed early in his career, and that’s what happens for long spells of The Open Road. There’s a welcome darkness seeping in through the cracks and infiltrating his sunny Southern blues-rock ebullience throughout the album. Not to worry: Anyone who looks to Hiatt as an exemplar of modern maturity will find it in the closing “Carry You Back Home,” which re-establishes the primacy of intimacy as a destination. But road-tripping with Hiatt the reprobate is fun while it lasts. – Chris Willman

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