Child of the Wild Blue Yonder
Yes, Lilly Hiatt is the daughter of noted roots rocker John Hiatt, and, yes, she has both shared the stage with and opened for her dad. That all said, Lilly Hiatt has a distinctive enough voice and is a young talent who doesn’t has to ride on her father’s coattails to earn a following. Listening to Hiatt sing is a little like hearing a bird sing: she has a lilt to her voice that you’ll find either disarming or, possibly, downright annoying (but I fall in the former camp). With her new album, Let Down, Hiatt shows a wide diversity and range of styles, even if it all easily falls into the Americana camp. In fact, listening to this record, one can easily imagine this coming out within the early ‘70s singer-songwriter crop. That turns out to be both an asset, as the songs are usually strong, and a liability, as this is pretty much interchangeable with any country-rock album that has come along in the past.
However, if there’s one thing Hiatt does really, really well—and seems to pull a page out of her daddy’s songbook—it is scorching heartland rockers. “Angry Momma” has a particular vile and venom to it, while the jangly and toe-tappingly good “People Don’t Change” is something of an album highlight. Final song “Big Bad Wolf” even has a bluesy, Stones-y swagger that is quite appealing to hear and listen to. It’s fun. Where Hiatt fails a little bit is when she turns down the volume and goes soft shoe—“Oh Mister”, in particular, comes off as being a bit of a dirge and stops the record dead cold. Same goes for “Master”, which has an early R&B feel to it, but is a tad filler-ish (despite the fact that father John plays lead guitar on it). However, Let Down is still a very strong artistic statement, and is anything but; even the duds have something to admire about them, even if it is just hearing Hiatt chirp along with the material. Here’s hoping, though, that Hiatt learns that she’s clearly at her best when she’s letting her hair down and just rocking out. Just like her dad generally does.