John Hiatt: his guitarists have much in common with Spinal Tap drummers
ROCK John Hiatt Edinburgh: Queen's Hall, Fri 3 Oct.
John Hiatt has flitted around on the periphery of a major breakthrough for so long that it would almost be an anti-climax if he finally pulled out a major-bucks album (although probably not to him).
Instead, he has earned himself a near-legendary reputation as a songwriter, although he was once so strapped for cash after the collapse of his recording deal with Geffen in the mid-80s that he threatened to sell off the rights to his songs. His publisher saw him through the crisis.
Those songs have been covered by all shades and styles of singers - even a selective list would include Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, Jeff Healey, Paula Abdul, Dave Edmunds . . . well, you get the idea. Covering a Hiatt song is about all they have in common, but according to Hiatt, it's not what he's really about.
‘I've always felt very fortunate about having all these people cover my songs, but that's not really the kind of writer that I am,’ he says. ’I don’t write for other people, but pretty much just for myself. I don't think of songwriting as my trade, so to speak, and in that
respect I don’t think of myself as a professional songwriter.’
Hiatt also feels that writing and performing have become more closely integrated in his work. His most recent album Little Head features his Nashville Queens outfit, with David lmmergluck as the latest in a longish line of guitarists ('I don't know why, but there's sure a high rate of attrition for guitar players in my bands'), which includes Ry Cooder and Sonny Landreth.
His collaboration with Cooder came about with Bring The Family in 1987. With a heavyweight team of Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner on board, Hiatt turned out a classic, which re-established his standing as both singer and songwriter.
The subsequent Little Village band with the same line- up did not produce such spectacular results in the studio, although Hiatt remains adamant that he would love another shot. Their one album, he claims, 'had its moments, but I would’ve kept it more raw. It came out a little too polished for my taste. I would've just put us in a room and turned on a couple of mikes, kind of like we did with Bring The Family.’
Yup, I would go for that, but for now, we have to content ourselves with the Nashville Queens. All things considered, that’s not such a bad deal.
Rigoletto Glasgow: Theatre Royal, Tue 30 Sep.
Boris Trajanov plays Rigoletto in Scottish Opera's new production of Verdi's opera
44 TIIEIJST 26 Sap—9 Oct 1997
The Royal Lyceum’s Artistic Director Kenny Ireland is making his operatic debut with a new production of Rigo/etto for Scottish Opera. Perhaps not a surprise to those who know his work in the theatre, the invitation from Scottish Opera came as a big surprise to Ireland. ’I hadn’t been thinking about directing opera at all,’ he says, ’and when Richard Armstrong, the Music Director, asked to meet me, I thought that it was probably about Scottish Opera 60 Round coming to use the Lyceum.’
The Opera’s own origins do, of course, lie in the theatre, as Rigo/etto is based on Victor Hugo’s Le Roi s’Amuse, which Verdi described as ’perhaps the greatest drama of modern times’. It is a story of the abuse of power, betrayed love and vengeance. ’It is not actually such a huge departure from what I normally do,’ says Ireland. Also, as Artistic Director of the Wrestling School Theatre Company, Ireland is well used to working with large images. In addition, his approach to, for example,
Shakespeare, where he works closely from the text, taking the writer’s cues, is in accord with Richard Armstrong’s approach to Verdi’s score.
’The biggest difference,’ Ireland explains, ’is the demands of the schedule. Scottish Opera are putting on Norma and Peter Grimes at the same time, so the problem is using the time I have with the chorus to the greatest advantage. It’s much more disciplined and less exploratory than theatre. Also, actors turn up without the lines learned, because they need to find out how the others present their characters, but singers appear knowing it all.’
Although he describes himself as an ’opera virgin’, Ireland clearly knows his stuff. 'What really hit me is the passion of the music. I didn’t want an intellectual concept between that and the audience, but I do want to present the two opposing Victorian worlds of morality and sleaze, and the inevitable explosion when they touch, in a way which is fired by the music.’ (Carol Main)
Morcheeba Glasgow: The Arches, Wed 8 Oct.
In 1994 brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey went to a party in Greenwich, where they stumbled across a girl called Skye Edward. She sang, and was into country and western. Skye’s input turned the existing hip hop blues the boys had been creating into a band called Morcheeba.
A year later the threesome came up with their highly acclaimed debut album Who Can You Trust? Since then Morcheeba have had a couple of singles in the charts, worked with David Byrne, and been on tour for eight months around America and Europe. Guitarist/sitarist Ross reports cheerily that since returning home, Morcheeba have been busy ’recording the new album, drinking lots and taking drugs’.
The as yet untitled second album will not be released until early next year, but 22 September sees the release of the first single taken from it, the edgy ’Shoulder Holster’. ’Shoulder Holster sounds a lot harder than our old stuff, but the rest of the album is pretty mellow,’ says Ross. 'It’s music to stick on late at night after a weird week. My gran described it as somnabulant . . .’
The music Ross describes as 'orchestral psychedelia with hip hop beats’ has won hearts in unexpected quarters. He laughs: ’We have really strange fans — Ozzy Osbourne likes us and often comes to our gigs and dances away. Lenny Kravitz also comes to our shows, so do quite a lot of film directors, and the odd actor or model. I don't understand it because our music is really slow, boring and minimalist but all these people with exciting lives are really into it.’
John Woo and David Duchovny must count among those glamorous fans, as both chose the Morcheeba track ’Trigger Happy’ for the soundtrack of their forthcoming cinema releases. Ross says that the band would love to work on more film scores in the future. ’We could record all the songs and incidental music, and then send the films on tour instead of us,’ says Ross. ’Ideally I’d like to make loads of money and then become a recluse. We are not really a gigging band, we’re more of an in the studio band.’ (Sarah Lowndes)
Morcheeba‘s Skye Edwards: er, putting the (SM into hip hop