JOHN HIATT & THE GONERS Beneath This Gruff Exterior (New West) Rating: NNN
Whether or not John Hiatt will admit it, the Goners - namely Sonny Landreth, Kenny Blevins and Dave Ransom - are the finest backing band he's ever had. Reuniting with them was Hiatt's best idea in over a decade. Unfortunately, he's low on song ideas, which the enjoyably rough Beneath This Gruff Exterior is sorely lacking. Landreth's raunchy-but-right slide snarl is a pleasant distraction from Hiatt's mid-life-crisis crabbing, but all the tasteful bayou twanging in Louisiana can't make toss-offs like My Baby Blue and My Dog And Me seem any more substantial than the throwaways they really are.
John Hiatt & the Goners headline the Toronto Bluesfest at Exhibition Place Sunday (July 27).