Hurts So Good
John Hiatt’s 18th album is a wondrous event in a career that spans more than 35 years. Same Old Man has a rock-and-blues framework outfitted with smartly poignant lyrics and enough flawless musicianship to make any music fan feel downright expansive. Add in subtle choruses that don’t trigger that oppressive bubble-gummy mind-repeat and you’ve got a near-perfect record.

On the guitar-picking song, “Ride My Pony,” one can almost imagine Hiatt playing upon a turned-over, wooden washtub in a cornfield with a long, shiny blade of yellow hay poking from his grin. His daughter, Lilly Hiatt, sings harmony on the album’s crowning jewel, “Love You Again,” an ode to the redemptive power of love. The song “Cherry Red” scores low numbers, sadly, due to its saccharine refrain: “My heart burns cherry red for you…my heart burns cherry red for you…” and so on.

Hiatt’s crimped voice is its own strange instrument, a mix of Bob Dylan and T Bone Burnett with a little Taj Mahal sprinkled on top. Judging by all the shattered hearts, lost loves and broken people Hiatt writes and sings about, it’s a miracle there’s such sweet vibrancy to his latest songs. Nevertheless, he pulls it off with charm and gusto.

Hiatt’s career, apparently, doesn’t always burn cherry red. The always-the-bridesmaid, never-a-bride syndrome has a lock on him. He has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards, but the golden gramophone has proved elusive. A number of his songs have rocketed up the charts, but they’ve been performed by other artists. Remember that Bonnie Raitt tune, “Thing Called Love”? Well, he wrote it. What about Rosanne Cash’s “The Way We Make a Broken Heart?” He penned that too. Hiatt’s songs have been covered by everyone from Willie Nelson to Emmylou Harris to Eric Clapton—even Iggy Pop has gotten in on the action—which is a testament to Hiatt’s marvelous and often overlooked musical gifts.

Diamond in the Rough
If you’re tired of listening to the twangy melodies of Neko Case and Jesse Sykes for the umpteenth time, then just add Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles’ latest album, Diamonds in the Dark, to the rotation. The band’s music enlivens a room in a heartbeat.

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles sounds like Liz Phair with a slide guitar. With a voice as punchy as peach schnapps, Borges belts out her songs with a honky-tonk attitude that would impress the most cynical Nashville record producer.

The Vodka Band
Denver-based DeVotchKa plays the kind of music one would expect to hear in some off-the-wall Eastern European film, where our plump hero passes through a series of zany obstacles while genial blasts from a tuba pervade the background. It’s as though the band members skipped off to Bulgaria to learn from Romani accordion masters—and while in-country got the band name from a tipsy old woman trying to yell, in English, “The vodka!” 

A Mad and Faithful Telling is DeVotchKa’s fifth album, not including its brilliant work on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, which was nominated for a Grammy. This year, DeVotchKa headlines CSF’s Quadstock festival, and rumor has it the band also brings with it many onstage, carnival-esque surprises.

John Hiatt
7:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 10
Santa Fe Brewing Company
35 Fire Place, 505 424-9637

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles
7:30 pm Monday, Sept. 22
Santa Fe Brewing Company
35 Fire Place, 505-424-9637

DeVotchKa at Quadstock
Noon-6 pm Saturday, Oct. 4
CSF Quad
1600 St. Michael’s Drive, 505-473-6000