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Paper Thin


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  • During the first track of this recording, documenting a January 4, 1989 concert in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, John Hiatt shouts to the audience, "I trust this man Sonny with my life!" as guitarist Sonny Landreth tears into a solo. It's not hard to imagine why Hiatt felt that way. Hiatt was touring in support of his 1988 album Slow Turning, with the set list largely divided between Slow Turning and 1987's Bring the Family, and Landreth not only reproduced his own leads from Slow Turning with sweet raunchy grace, he managed to pull off lead work that built on Ry Cooder's one-of-a-kind parts on Bring the Family while maintaining a personality of his own. Laying out a healthy portion of guitar heroics that nearly elevate him to co-star status, Landreth certainly earned his fee this particular evening (as did bassist David Ranson and drummer Ken Blevins), but Hiatt is also in unusually spirited form on Paper Thin, singing with force and authority, and bantering with the audience as if they're old buddies (and even offering some romantic advice for the gents on hand on "Tip of My Tongue"). The set offers a nice tour of the many moods of John Hiatt, from the rowdy "Tennessee Plates" to the affecting "Have a Little Faith in Me," and this catches him at a time when his career was on the rise after a personal and professional slump, so it's no wonder these guys were so happy to play for a revved-up crowd. A surprising number of live albums preserve Hiatt's touring in the '80s and '90s, so fans might wonder how badly they need another, but the strength of Hiatt and his band on this cold winter night certainly justifies the belated appearance of Paper Thin. ~ Mark Deming
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