Teaming up with his resonator-playing neighbor Jerry Douglas was a genius move for songwriting legend John Hiatt, and it gives these 11 tracks a deep, woody warmth without losing any of their bittersweetness. The settings in Leftover Feelings, recorded live in Nashville’s historic RCA Studio B, find the middle ground between wisdom and cleverness, country and bluegrass, making these performances some of the finest in Hiatt’s 50-year career.
Channeling a lost love, Hiatt tells the story of an ill-fated romance in “All the Lilacs in Ohio,” beginning with too much whiskey—“You met her there on a New York City stair/You were throwing up on your shoes”—and ending with the main character’s only souvenir, a perfumed handkerchief he still keeps by his bed. Channeling another in “I’m in Asheville,” the singer can’t stop the “leftover feelings” that come from being the one who couldn’t turn his car around, realizing “there’s some things you can’t come back from/if there’s some things you won’t go through.”
There’s humor too, in “Long Black Electric Cadillac” and “Little Goodnight,” where a newborn baby won’t let her weary parents get any rest. But it’s the sad songs—especially “Light of the Burning Sun,” about the brother who committed suicide when Hiatt was nine years old— that shine brightest, filled with lines that dazzle in their detail, punctuated by Douglas’s always-perfect resonator guitar and lap steel. Hiatt’s 1942 Gibson LG-2 rings with a steady, warm authority, and support from Daniel Kimbro (upright bass), Mike Seal (acoustic and electric guitars), and Christian Sedelmyer (violin) makes this album a beautifully unsettling gem.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.