Walter Hyatt: Some Unfinished Business

What these songs share in common is Hyatt’s smooth vocals. He never sings staccato. The lyrics flow like honey from his mouth.

Walter Hyatt

Some Unfinished Business: Volume One

Label: King Tears
US Release Date: 2008-01-22
UK Release Date: Available as import

Most people have heard of Walter Hyatt for two reasons. First, Lyle Lovett has championed Hyatt as a seminal influence. Lovett produced Hyatt’s lustrous first album, King Tears (1990), and has covered some of Hyatt’s best songs. Hyatt is also known because of his tragic death in the notorious ValuJet plane crash off Florida in 1996.

More people have heard of Hyatt than heard Hyatt himself. His two discs can be routinely found in the cut-out bins and discounted items at new and used record stores for a cheap price, and even then they mostly just sit there. He’s yesterday’s news whose idiosyncratic mix of folk, swing, blues, and pop no longer attracts attention. That’s a shame, but maybe one that will soon be remedied. A third Hyatt CD has just been released with 12 new songs that features contributions by old friends and fans, like singer Alison Moorer, dobro maven Jerry Douglas, fiddler extraordinaire Carrie Rodriguez, and many others.

As the title suggests, the contents of Some Unfinished Business: Volume One includes a dozen uncompleted tracks (out of 40) that were left behind when Hyatt died. The demos consisted of Hyatt singing and playing guitar by himself, but thanks to the miracle of studio production, they are now fully fleshed-out songs. This can mean everything from adding a lush string accompaniment, as on the romantic ballad “The Standoff”, to putting rockabilly-inflected vocal harmonies (by the Jordanaires, no less) on the rollicking “Reach for Me”. While one wonders what Hyatt would have done with these tunes if he were alive, there is little doubt that the appended polish makes this record a complete package wrapped up with a bow.

The most distinctive quality of Hyatt’s posthumous release is that no two songs sound alike. The different styles and sundry musicians employed give this recording a grab bag quality. Individually, each track creates a satisfying listening experience, but as a whole the disc seems oddly disjointed. Perhaps that’s an unfair criticism considering the music’s pedigree, but it should be noted. There are many times the listener gets in a groove and expects more of the same only to be smacked with something that completely breaks the mood.

That said, the disc containers some wonderful music. The opening track, “Motor City Man”, uses a honking horn section and a soulful bass line as Hyatt tells the story of the automobile industry’s rise and fall through the story of one family’s fortunes. “Deeper than Love” successfully employs bluegrass rhythms and accompaniment to evoke the memories of a simpler time. The gentle cadences of “Going to New Orleans” evoke the placid Delta breezes Hyatt sings about in his search for a better life. What these songs share in common is Hyatt’s smooth vocals. He never sings staccato. The lyrics flow like honey from his mouth.

Hyatt’s voice lures the listener in. It comes off as the expression of a long lost pal who tells you what you’ve been missing. Well, that much is true, even if you never knew him or his music before.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.