John Hiatt

Crossing Muddy Waters

Despite boasting such name-brand boosters as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, John Hiatt has never received the mass-market approbation accorded to those legends. As much as I’d like to attribute this slight to America’s bland musical tastes, more likely it’s been Hiatt’s ass-ugly mug keeping him off the covers for so long: His entire face seems to squinch towards the center, leaving him with a sour, pinched sneer, while his hairline attempts to disassociate itself from the whole ordeal. But the songs, man … Crossing Muddy Waters, his 19th album, is a fiery growl of old age, loss and regret, and when Hiatt wraps his persuasive croak around spare acoustic elegies such as "What Do We Do Now" or "Take It Down," you’ll want to kiss the ugly bastard.