Opening: Christian Lee Hutson. 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Bomhard Theater of the Kentucky Center for the Arts, 501 W. Main St. in Louisville. $44.50, $54.50. 502-584-7777. Kentuckycenter.org, Johnhiatt.com.
The first time I saw a performance by John Hiatt was purely unintentional. My familiarity with his music came largely through recordings by other artists of his songs that had sneaked onto radio over the previous decade — a list that would eventually stretch from Three Dog Night to Iggy Pop. Curious, it was as part of an opening act for a February 1983 concert by Eric Clapton at Louisville Gardens that I first encountered Hiatt.
Fittingly for a career by an artist whose songs were made commercially visible through cover versions, Hiatt was performing in someone else’s band. He was playing second guitar behind Ry Cooder in a combo that included drummer Jim Keltner, pianist Jim Dickinson and vocalists Bobby King and Willie Green. The resulting music was so joyously roots-driven that Clapton, even with his mighty legacy, paled.
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In some way, the seeds were planted then for an eventual Hiatt renaissance. Four years later, Cooder and Keltner, along with Brit-pop veteran Nick Lowe on bass, would back Hiatt on the record that finally established, after numerous misfires, an enduring solo career. That record was “Bring the Family.” Commercially, the album gained lasting prominence when Bonnie Raitt scored her first comeback hit with one its songs, “Thing Called Love.” But there was so much more to the album, including the lingering romantic fade of “Lipstick Sunset” and the mischievous road anthem “Memphis in the Meantime.” The same quartet would re-team in 1992 under the band name Little Village, but in terms of ensemble chemistry, its lone self-titled album never emerged from the shadows of “Bring the Family.”
Hiatt would establish an extraordinary catalogue of songs in the years and decades to come, some of them connecting with radio via albums like “Slow Turning” (1988), “Perfectly Good Guitar” (1993) and “Walk On” (1994). There would also be several landmark visits to Lexington venues to accompany those recordings, including a pair of sold-out shows at the long-demolished Breeding’s on Main Street in 1990 and a Memorial Day outing at the Red Mile in 1994.
The thing is, though, Hiatt’s music never took an artistic dip after “Bring the Family,” even when his commercial profile became less prominent. Between 2008 and 2014, he released a string of six sublime albums (one of which was a compilation) for the indie Americana label New West filled with songs that balanced domestic bliss with darker, more internalized ruminations.
The most recent Hiatt record, 2014’s “Terms of My Surrender,” is typical of such a blend. Co-produced by his longtime guitarist Doug Lancio, the tune offers bluesy empathy and familial faith in the face of desolation (“Here to Stay”) and personal confession set to the nastiest of guitar riffs (“Nothin’ I Love”).
Hiatt usually performs with Lancio in an electric combo. On Sunday, though, the songwriter returns to the region for a rare solo acoustic concert at the ultra-intimate Bomhard Theatre at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville.
Los Angeles songsmith Christian Lee Hutson will open.
Sure, the sense of celebration inherent in the music of Humming House will work just fine on Saturday night, when the Nashville band plays The Burl. But the lightness, giddiness and lovely simplicity fueling the group’s rich acoustic pop melodies and equally bright harmonies could just as easily have been designed for daylight hours.
Last weekend, adjusting to the morning chill and departure of Daylight Savings Time, I gave a listen to Humming House’s 2012 self-titled debut album and to the more recent record “Revelries.” The verdict? If ever a band was suited to the a.m. hours, this one qualifies.
See what happens Friday night when Humming House sets its summery hootenanny sound to an autumn evening.
Just in case word never reached you, the Nov. 17 concert by Chris Isaak at the Opera House has been canceled. Don’t feel slighted. The veteran rock stylist called off all the remaining dates of his 2016 tour — 17 shows in all — to recuperate from pneumonia.
Isaak’s website says he plans to perform again as soon in 2017 as possible, but it has offered no rescheduled dates for his fall performances. It further says fans can obtain ticket refunds at point of purchase.
“I’m a pretty healthy, clean-living rock and roller,” Isaak wrote on the website. “It’s really unusual for me to cancel shows. But the good news is I’m on the mend and look forward to getting back with my band as soon as I’m 100 percent. I want to thank my fans in advance for their good wishes.”