Recommended Albums #2

Bring the Family

John Hiatt: Bring The Family (1987)

This one’s a classic, a true desert island disc. The same year that Licensed To Ill, The Joshua Tree, Tunnel Of Love and Bad went to number one, this album peaked at #107. I probably didn’t need to tell you who recorded those other albums.  Hiatt is somewhat less of a household name, but you’ve heard his songs. His songwriting credits include Three Dog Night’s “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here”, Bonnie Raitt’s “Thing Called Love”, Jeff Healey’s “Angel Eyes” and countless others.

Hiatt’s early career was marked by comercially less-than-successful forays into New Wave-influenced rock, something along the lines of Graham Parker. Bring The Family was not only his breakthrough album (in a songwriter/cult artist sort of way) but a complete change of genre as well.

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Musically you can hear a blend of Country, Blues and Gospel that was coming to be known as “Roots Rock”. But in the lyrics you can hear an additional and more unique genre emerging on this album, one which would continue through his next two records, Slow Turning (1988) and Stolen Moments (1990). And one which reflected Hiatt’s new life as he gave up drinking and settled down to raise kids. For lack of a better term, John Hiatt began making “Family Rock”. As the album’s title suggests, it’s Rock music with kids in the back seat, and real life at its heart.

Despite the album’s poor showing on the charts in ’87, it’s stood the test of time as well as the number one albums mentioned above. Its songs continue to pop up on movie soundtracks and in cover versions because when Hiatt put aside second-rate New Wave for first-rate “Family Rock” the songwriting resonated real and the music rang true.

It was also recorded by a crack band: Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner backed him here. That, folks, is a real “supergroup”. And Bring The Family is a super album, albeit an under-the-radar one.

Listen to: “Thank You Girl”

Listen to: “Your Dad Did”

Listen to: “Have A Little Faith In Me”

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