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John Hiatt: Same Old Man

John Hiatt's new Same Old Man finds a nice balance between cranky-old-man irritability and moony romanticism, between the giddy infatuation of young love and the satisfaction of relationships that have weathered the test of time. The shambling, ambling opening track "Old Days" offers a picaresque ramble through some of Hiatt's more colorful memories of life on the road, setting an appropriately reflective mood for an album that looks back on the past with nostalgia tempered by realism (he grouses about the good old days, "I don't know what was so good about 'em, I played practically free") and the big-bad-wolf rasp of Hiatt's voice, which adds a pleasing grit and texture to even the most sentimental love songs. On standout tracks like "Cherry Red," verses rich in literary detail give way to big-ass hooks and monster choruses. Same Old Men could use more wry rockers like "Old Days" and fewer love songs that veer uncomfortably into the middle of the road, but otherwise, Hiatt threatens to give growing old a good name. If only all AARP rockers possessed even a fraction of Hiatt's irascible charm.


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