Guitars, Boots, and Panties

by Tom Ingram

Just come in from across the world: Ian Dury’s New Boots and Panties!! and John Hiatt’s Perfectly Good Guitar. Personally I discovered John Hiatt by hearing his song “Thirty Years of Tears” on an episode of Crossing Jordan (don’t judge me). I looked him up and was astounded. He’s written some of the greatest music to come out of the US in the past few decades, put out nineteen albums, been covered by just about everybody, and I had never even heard of him. Perfectly Good Guitar was supposed to be his “breakout” album. It’s a lot heavier and more guitar-driven than his previous work. The genre suits him well–with a rock-solid backing band and his classic voice and witty lyrics, he manages to rock harder than a Nashville musician has any right to. There’s only one particularly weak song on the album, “Angel”. However, that’s balanced out by “Buffalo River Home”, “Old Habits”, “Permanent Hurt”, “Blue Telescope”, and the title track. Plus, possibly the funniest song that deals with both suicide and Barbie dolls.

As for Ian Dury, it’s easy to think of him as a novelty artist. Outside of the UK, the only songs he’s known for are “Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll” and “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”. If you look deeper, you’ll see that he has songs entitled “Fuck Off, Noddy”, in which he talks about the dirty habits of British cartoon characters; “There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards”, in which he says that Einstein, Noel Coward, and Van Gogh “probably got help from their mum”; and “Spasticus Autisticus”, which is a song called “Spasticus Autisticus”. But if you look even deeper, you’ll see that he’s an intelligent songwriter with an eye for interesting characters, an ear for rhymes, and a band full of world-class musicians. He’s one of my songwriting idols, though I wouldn’t want to sing like him. There are bonus tracks on this CD, unfortunately, but there’s also a second disc with demo versions of the songs. That strikes me as a good idea–put bonus material on another disc, keeping the original album intact.