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Lilly Hiatt

Trinity Lane – 2017 (New West)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Lilly Hiatt

Lily Hiatt's third album is her most deeply personal as many of the songs are autobiographical. Given the raw honesty of the lyrics, the stellar backing band and production from Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope, this is rather easily Hiatt's best album yet.

For those of you that are new to Hiatt and recognize the surname, her musical approach is not at all like her more famous dad, John Hiatt. Instead, she takes her cues from the '90s alternative rock she was raised on, citing The Pixies, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr., and, of course, Pearl Jam as major influences. While her music has strains of those sounds, it is not as thrashing and loud. There is an Americana feel and even a touch of country lurking in there too, and very often, they are more dominant. With Trent at the helm as well as playing a variety of instruments, that stands to reason. His Shovels & Rope partner Cary Ann Hearst joins Hiatt for backing vocals on "Everything I Had" as well.

The album takes its title from a new apartment in East Nashville off Trinity Lane, where Hiatt moved after leaving an ex. Following a tour with her friend, John Moreland, she wrote most of the album there, reflecting on her experiences, coping with the pain, and channeling her desire for a man or for a drink into songwriting. At 33, Hiatt has been sobered now for about 6 years. The writing process was a lonely one, and when she was finished, she took her band to Trent's studio on Johns Island, S.C. and entrusted the players with the material.

Themes of home, intentions, demons and love are often posed rhetorically in the lyrics. Often, she is reflecting on her badass persona with tinges of regret and questions of what could have been. "All Kinds of People" has the memorable lines "Spend a lot of time loving all kinds of people/But all kinds of people won't care for your heart." In "The Night David Bowie Died," she confesses to being a bitch and screwing up. The title track speaks to dealing with various temptations. "Everything I Had" reflects the pain and jealousy of a former boyfriend with a new girl. Other highlights include the AM radio vibe of "I Wanna Go Home," the rave-up "Records" and the ballad-like, contemplative "So Much You Don't Know."

Hiatt is not especially interested in being tactful or compromising. She expresses herself directly and unapologetically while the pianos and guitars carry quite a range of dynamics, mostly pulsating in punchy rhythms and catchy hooks. Hiatt continues to grow as a songwriter.