Lilly Hiatt
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Lilly Hiatt

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Alternative


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Let’s just get this bit of history out of the way right up front — Lilly Hiatt is the daughter of Americana maestro John Hiatt. “Let Down” is the younger Hiatt’s album debut.

But the 28-year-old woman is much more than a chip off the old block. She’s a strong singer/songwriter in her own right, delving afresh into that rock country territory Gram Parsons first mined some 45 years ago.

Hiatt, in fact, waxes very Parsons-like on “Young Black Rose,” a broken-hearted song told in second person to the man the title character leaves behind to steep in his own numbness.

But then there are cuts like the smoky “Master,” a pure rock ballad, laced with guitar tremolo at its roots.

In interviews, and even in lyrics, Hiatt has nodded to Neil Young as one of her influences, and you can hear the hoofbeats of Young’s Crazy-Horse distortion rock sound on such cuts as “Angry Mother” and “Big Bad Wolf.”

Hiatt was only 1 year old when her mother, the estranged second wife of John Hiatt, committed suicide. The words to “Knew You Were Coming” (and other lyrics here and there on the album) seem to touch on that most primal of losses: “And I felt like a woman, working in trying/ To fill in the blanks that come with someone dying ... And I knew you were coming and I knew I was ready/ But the hills were on fire and the heat was so steady.”

Hiatt admits this album’s songs were years in the making, and, due to the timing in her life, is in large part about discovering oneself in young adulthood, warts and all.

She is delving into a field where her own father and the classics he has written (like “Feels Like Rain” and “A Thing Called Love”) cast a long shadow.

But if this debut is proof, the younger Hiatt also has a knack with words and music that can take her the distance.
- Hers Utah

Whatever apprehension a younger Lilly Hiatt once felt about using her family name in a town where being the offspring of known artists is equal parts blessing and curse, she’s gotten over it. Her dad — none other than John Hiatt — is right there in the list of influences on her Facebook page, along with some of his enlightened rootsy peers and a few classic and alternative rock acts, plus she’s performed with him on occasion. By the time the younger Hiatt released her Doug Lancio-produced debut album Let Down last October, she’d reached her late 20s, assembled her band The Dropped Ponies — rounded out by guitarist Beth Finney, bassist Jake Bradley and drummer Jon Radford — and defined her point-of-view. The characters in her story-songs diverge from the predictable; they’re as emotionally spiky as they are unguarded, which makes them compellingly believable. And lest you think she only cares about lyrics, the Ponies add plenty of feral country-rock bite. - The Nashville Scene

illy Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies at SXSW.
It would have made for a smoother transition to hear the desert-doom of Big Harp right after Cave, but the schedule led me instead to Lilly Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies' showcase at the unfortunately named Velveeta Room. Ms. Hiatt, the daughter of John, one of our finest living songwriters, is just lighting out as a performer and band leader, playing rocked up Americana and fronting a group of Nashville aces, notably Beth Finney on seriously gritty electric guitar. Hiatt sounds confident playing her first show in her new home of Austin; her proud dad was in attendance and grooved to her twang with the rest of the crowd. Her high, sweet voice sounds best on the heartbreakers, but she clearly has the most fun with the romps -- and she's pretty hard to resist all in all. - Riverfront Times

The expectations are often set quite high for the progeny of well-known artists who decide to follow in their parents’ footsteps, often leading to mixed results. No doubt Nashville’s Lilly Hiatt felt this pressure being the daughter of well-known singer-songwriter John Hiatt, but her debut album Let Down rises to the challenge.

Like her father, Hiatt knows how to turn a phrase and compose songs that seem quite simple on the surface with their quickly familiar themes of life and love, but as they grow on the listener you find the depth in these American tales. Hiatt is backed by three fantastic players who have been dubbed The Dropped Ponies: Beth Finney on mournful lead guitar, Jake Bradley on bass, and drummer Jon Radford. Together they have created an album sound that flows from classic country to snappy Americana to grungy alt rock.

Standout tracks on this strong 10-song debut are the poignant “People Don’t Change,” with its easy country rock vibe; and the melancholy waltz “Oh Mister,” that has the feel of an old Appalachian hymn recast in a heavy blues setting with the lovely wide open tones from Finney’s slide guitar. Hiatt comes closest to her old man’s playbook on the guitar riff heavy rocker “Angry Momma.” The quartet ends the album with flurry on the revved up “Big Bad Wolf,” saving all the bravado for the big finish. - No Depression

Same Old Man, John Hiatt (New West) John Hiatt's career is long and checkered. After his first break of having Three Dog Night cover his song Sure As I'm Sitting Here, Hiatt emerged as a singer-songwriter with a particularly quirky edge. When punk/new wave hit, he was heralded by some as an American Elvis Costello, but ignored by most. It wasn't until his 1987 album Bring the Familythat Hiatt finally got the recognition he deserved. Since that time, many other artists have had hits with his songs and Hiatt has become one of the cornerstones of Americana music. Hiatt's latest album, Same Old Man, is about looking back. On the bouncy opening track, Old Days, Hiatt recounts his adventures opening for blues and jazz legends - sharing a room with Sonny Terry, Mose Allison commenting on his songs and John Lee Hooker sitting his two dates on the stage while Hiatt was playing his set: And that's called 'Evenin' son. I'm the headliner! Hiatt's nostalgia is not mournful. Throughout other tracks Hiatt looks back at the best moments of a romance that has endured and looks ahead. Hiatt has rarely released a bad collection of songs, but Same Old Man is one of the best of his career. Self-produced, the album is friendly and casual. North Mississippi Allstars' Luther Dickinson adds guitar chops. Hiatt's daughter Lilly Hiatt, adds harmony vocals on two of the best tracks and John's squirrely vocals sound better and happier than ever. Songwise, Hiatt may not be breaking new ground, but he never seems to strain for a good line. If he resorts to aphorisms, it simply sounds like natural conversation. Sometimes being the same old man is a good thing. --Knoxville News Sentinel - Associated Press

Nashville, Tennessee’s Shake Go Home features Lilly Hiatt, daughter of favorite neighborhood son, John Hiatt. Lilly’s aunts and friends were there to cheer her on. All four musicians are great. Guitar player Eric Knutson, drummer John Arrotti, Jeff Montoya is the bass player and Lilly is the lead singer. The young twenty-something’s met in college in Denver and started playing together in the summer of 2005. They relocated to Lilly’s hometown earlier this year. They grabbed everyone’s attention at Birdy’s with their hard to pigeonhole folk funk-bluesy sound. And I’m sure glad to see that Lilly is following her papa in to the family business – and doing it well. - Queen Bee Music, Indianapolis

ARELY COULD one win an argument by pleading, "Honey, I'm still the same old man." But John Hiatt sure comes close on the title track to his latest album. His scratchy voice evokes both weariness and tenderness, a blend so genuinely touching that his subject is certain to have forgiven him by the time she notices the snub hidden just beneath the surface: "I can still sparkle up your eyes/You can still cut me down to size."

That wry sense of humor paired with his deadpan, gruff delivery is Hiatt's secret weapon. On the album's opening track, "Old Days," he remembers the hardships of his early shows. Amid droll anecdotes about playing with more-established musicians (Sonny Terry, John Lee Hooker and John Hammond Jr., among others), he makes a jab at nostalgia itself: "Old days are coming back to me/Don't know what was so good about 'em, I played practically free."

Most of "Man" is spent reminiscing about matters of the heart: a fierce crush on a pretty girl in a flashy car ("Cherry Red"), unexpected forgiveness ("Love You Again") and a love that has grown over the years ("What Love Can Do"). Hiatt's daughter Lilly Hiatt adds harmonies to the latter two, her sweet voice offsetting his gruffness to amplify the songs' tender sentiments. - Washington Post


Let Down-October 2012



Lilly Hiatt’s an old soul, a young woman wise beyond her years. Listen. You’ll hear.
Hiatt’s songs back equal measures edge (“3 Days”) and energy (“Big Bad Wolf”) with stunning lyrical elegance. Clear evidence: The Nashville resident’s buoyant Let Down. Hiatt’s seamless debut fortifies earthy (“Master”) and ethereal narratives (“Oh Mister”) with storytelling as sharp as a seasoned songwriter (“Young Black Rose”). Youthful restlessness guides the journey. “There was a self-loathing theme throughout all those songs, hence the title,” the 28-year-old explains. “It had a lot to do with being in the first half of my twenties and being in this transition from child to grownup. It’s kind of like hitting puberty again.”
If discovery defines early adulthood, Hiatt certainly spent fair time seeking out songwriters far and wide to shape her own vision. “John Prine’s always a good place to go for inspiration for writing,” she says. “I really like early Liz Phair and Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young and I’m obsessed with Pearl Jam.” Accordingly, the rapidly rising songwriter’s new collection soars with wild diversity. Hiatt moves and grooves between country-folk (“Championship Fighter”) and gnashing Crazy Horse rock and roll (“Angry Momma”) with an ease that boldly suggests all songs arrive branded within a single and uncompromising genre: Music.
“When people ask me, I usually end up saying I play ‘spacey country,’” she says, “but the lyrics and the band aspect are equally important to me. To me, it’s just singer-songwriter stuff with an emphasis on the band. I guess I’d put it in the indie or Americana or country category, but I’m just as big a fan of rock and roll. That’s what I’m trying to get at eventually.” Either way, Hiatt’s endless lyrical and musical searching scarcely wavers throughout Let Down.
Rewind “Knew You Were Coming.” Now, turn up the volume. Words dampen stereo speakers with tears so painful and pure. “And I felt like a woman, working and trying to fill in the blanks that come with someone dying,” she sings on the perfectly circular coming-of-age confessional, a song written as sharply as Lucinda Williams and sung as sweetly as Patty Griffin. “And I knew you were coming and I knew I was ready, but the hills were on fire and the heat was so steady.” Fighting through angst. Sounds like an Americana songwriting icon we all know whose composure, as Lilly sings, sometimes “turns to country gravel.”
His name: John Hiatt. Lilly’s bond with her father runs deep. “My dad definitely serves as one of my biggest inspirations,” she says. “I really look up to him. I draw from his music. He’s my hero and always has been and he’s very good for advice. When I was younger, he’d treat it more delicately but now he shoots pretty straight with me. He doesn’t hesitate to give constructive criticism. He’s really supportive and sweet and roots for me.” Her father’s irascible wisdom (“People Don’t Change”) frequently appears on the new album, but Lilly’s hardly a facsimile.
In fact, the collection undeniably shows that she’s an accomplished songwriter in her own right. After all, Lilly’s been writing original songs more than half her life (since age twelve). Let Down only serves as her first official declaration of personal independence and purpose. “To listen to Lilly, you can hear a young artist discovering herself,” says the abum’s producer Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, Todd Snider, Jack Ingram). “She also has a terrific sense of humor, listens attentively and draws from diverse music, creating a style that is personal and distinctly her own.”
She’s ready to tell the world. “I finished this record over a year ago,” Lilly says. “I’m so emotionally attached to it. I’ve never made a whole record before and I felt really invested in the whole process. All I want to do is get on the road. If I can make any sort of living, even if I live in a tiny house, I would feel pretty great. I want to play live shows and share the record with anyone who wants to hear. I’ve worked in a coffee shop for six years and that’s fine, but I get restless and I like to get out.”