At its core, Terms of My Surrender is a John Hiatt blues record that will inevitably be compared to 2000’s Crossing Muddy Waters. The new album is acoustic and electric, recorded mostly live, featuring Hiatt on his acoustic guitar and singing in that lower register that fits these tales well. Hiatt has his road band, the Combo, aboard with guitarist/producer Doug Lancio at the helm and high register harmonies from Brandon Young.
Hiatt is now 40 years into his recording career, with this album marking his 22nd studio release. Appropriately the prevailing themes are of mortality (“Face of God”), aging (“Old People”) and acquiescence (“Terms of My Surrender”). Hiatt pulls out his long unused harmonica and seems to revel in the bluesman mode. “I hadn’t really been doing that for a while,” Hiatt said. “That feels good. Feels like a kid. And anything you can do to feel like a kid when you’re my age, you want to do it.”
The haunting, memorable “Nobody Knew His Name” is one of several poignant story songs. Lines like, “Listening to John Lee Hooker/Got my mind on a slow meat cooker,” in “Baby’s Gonna Kick,” are indicative of the wry wit that Hiatt has consistently delivered over four decades now. While this recording may be a detour from his last several albums, Hiatt is not about to surrender. He is still moving forward forcefully.
– Jim Hynes