September 2005

John Hiatt - Master of Disaster
New West NW6076
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Sweet! A new John Hiatt disc. Given Hiatt's proclivity at arranging recordings in a certain order, I was fairly confident that Master of Disaster would be a low-key, back-to-basics, rootsy recording given over to Hiatt’s slightly off-kilter view of life. I was not surprised when that’s pretty much what I got. With backup on guitar and drums from Luther and Cody Dickinson, East Memphis Slim on keyboards, David Hood on bass, and others, this album sounds much like a mid-period John Prine recording -- and that’s meant as a real compliment.

But what did astonish me was how Hiatt chose to release it -- as a single-inventory hybrid multichannel SACD! This is big news for audiophiles -- a new album by a major artist released in a format that has been mostly ignored by the great unwashed. Therefore, Master of Disaster holds hope that the hybrid SACD may still prove itself a goer.

Sonically, this is a solid, well-recorded disc. It is not the ultimate demo material, but it can hold its head up in exalted company. The stereo mix is fine, exactly what you would expect. The multichannel mix places the listener in the middle of the band -- as seems the norm in popular music today. Buy it and support the advanced-resolution marketplace, and at the same time listen to some wonderful new John Hiatt.