Listening Log : 9-22-05 

Master of Disaster

John Hiatt

(New West)

John Hiatt came to Memphis to record this, his 17th album, hooking up with local producer Jim Dickinson and recruiting the North Mississippi Allstars as his backing band. The result has a general regional flavor somewhere between Beale Street and Sun Studios, but brief forays into bluesier territory produce the weakest tracks (such as "Wintertime Blues"). Hiatt's voice sounds more gravelly with age and his intelligent songwriting and sharp wit are present on every song, so even when the experiment fails, the results are still mostly entertaining. The title (autobiographical?) track tells of a luckless journeyman who "gets tangled in his Telecaster," but the punchline is that he doesn't even get a guitar solo. Instead, Jim Spake comes in on saxophone, slyly teasing out the melody and providing ample reason for hitting the repeat button. ("Master of Disaster," "Love's Not Where We Thought We Left It") -- Stephen Deusner

Grade: B

Pieces of the World

Dixie Dirt

(self-released)

The name Dixie Dirt suggests alt-country or Southern rock, but though this Knoxville band with Memphis ties (an earlier album was released on Memphis' Makeshift label) has spent some time touring with locals Lucero, they don't sound anything like their name. Instead, Dixie Dirt traffics in slow-building rock numbers that manage to be simultaneously dramatic and understated in the manner defined by such '90s indie bands as Slint and Seam, though the occasional use of horns and other flourishes gives their music a different color. So does the morosely charismatic, Cat Power-esque vocals of singer-songwriter Kat Brock, who adds a feminine touch to what has long been a particularly homogenous corner of the indie-rock boys' club. ("Pieces of the World," "Bad Lights," "15th Street") -- Chris Herrington

Grade: B+

Dixie Dirt plays the Hi-Tone Café Friday,September 16th, with El Dorado & theRuckus. Doors open at 9 p.m.; admission is $5.

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