John Hiatt - Slow Turning - Amazon.com Music

2021 Song Draft- Mike and Paul’s Music Blog selects- ‘Icy Blue Heart’- John Hiatt.

Icy Blue Heart is a song from John Hiatt’s 1988 album Slow Turning.  I am betting that most of you haven’t ever heard of the song and may not be that familiar with John Hiatt.  But that’s part of the purpose of the song draft, right? – to expose you to songs/artists you may not know.  I bought Slow Turning based on a positive review of it in Rolling Stone magazine – the only time I’ve ever done that.  I didn’t really know who John Hiatt was at the time, but one listen to Slow Turning and I fell in love with the music and became a lifelong fan of Hiatt.

Hiatt has an ability, like the best songwriters, to paint a full scene in just a few words.  But what I also love is his unique lyrical style. This is a guy whose has used the word “somnambulist” in a song and even made it rhyme.  Anyway, I digress.  Take this song title – initial romance is usually described as red and hot-blooded.  You know right away you aren’t getting that with this song.  The first two verses catch your attention and draw you right in:

“She came on to him, like a slow-moving cold front

His beer was warmer than the look in her eyes.”

Again, you know that this isn’t a typical pick-up scene in a bar. This couple is carrying a lot of emotional baggage and the toll of bad previous romances that is making it almost impossible to be open and vulnerable enough to meet someone new.  This isn’t some fairy tale romance – this is real life.

The music is unobtrusive, a ¾ time waltz that doesn’t get in the way of the story but complements it perfectly.  The highlight for me is Sonny Landreth’s bottleneck slide guitar which comes in the second verse – it shimmers and shivers and moves like its sliding across that icy blue hear – I find it achingly beautiful.

Hiatt has introduced the song in concert as his nod to Billie Joe Shaver and honky-tonk music. In researching this piece, I discovered that Icy Blue Heart has been covered a number of times, most notably by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.

If you enjoy the song, I hope you’ll check out more from John Hiatt – the man is a national treasure who deserves much more popular recognition.


  1. Slow Turning- maybe my favorite Hiatt album- would be difficult for me to pick a favorite John Hiatt song but this would certainly be on my short list!

    • Thanks Hans. Yes I could fill my draft with songs from him. Been a fan since Slow Turning bit it remains my favorite from him as well

  2. Brilliant lyrics. That refrain, wow. He reaches right in there and gives the soul a good squeeze. I don’t know Hiatt’s music much but I should. Great choice and write up, Paul.

    • Thanks Lisa! Yes he is one of favorites. Really has an ability to talk about the human experience. If you want to explore more Slow Turning is a good one to start. Other favorites are Bring the Family and Crossing Muddy Waters.

  3. Great pick! I’ve listened to some of John Hiatt’s music and really dig what I’ve heard thus far. I like and reviewed his most recent collaboration album with Jerry Douglas. I also liked his short-lived Little Village project with Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner.

    • Thanks Christian ! Yes I enjoyed your review. I’m seeing them in November (assuming this covid delta doesn’t ruin things again)

    • Now that I see your comment, I remember you told me before. Keeping fingers crossed!

      I started going to back to some outdoor music events in July but have now largely stopped. I skipped a recent Southern Avenue concert in Asbury Park (hardly anyone I saw going in was wearing a mask, and I highly doubt everybody was vaccinated!).

      Last evening, after some hesitation, I went to a small indoor event at a restaurant. I’m good friends with the members of the band and felt somewhat obligated to go. We had talked about their gig for months!

      It’s really difficult to find the right balance. I don’t want to go back giving up live music entirely. But I also don’t want to infect anyone around me!

    • I hear you Christian. Really hope live music can continue and this thing gets under control. Some major venues around here are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative covid test in order to be admitted to concert. I think it’s a great idea but logistically challenging.

  4. I love John Hiatt. Slow Turning is what made me notice him and I’ve liked him ever since. His voice is so soulful to me. It’s been a long long time since I heard this.
    Great pick Paul.

    • Yeah his voice fits his songs. Yeah it was great meeting him – very down to earth. My wife and me told him that his song Have a Little Faith in Me was our wedding song and he apologized that he didn’t play it that night.

  5. I’ve heard the name John Hiatt through the years, but never spent any time getting to know his music. This is very nice, lyrics and music. I see why you are a fan. I’ll pay attention when I hear his name and music from now on.

    • Thanks Diana! Yes he’s one of those artists who’s songs have become
      More well known by others’ covers – probably most famous was Bonnie Raitt and Thing Called Love. I listed some albums for Lisa earlier in the thread if you wanted to check out some of his work.

  6. Not bad at all. I know John’s name more than his music, but he is well-respected. One album I bought solely on basis of several reviews was Wilco’s ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’…it was a great purchase that lived up to its billing.

  7. I’m one of those who are guilty of having heard of John Hiatt, but not being familiar with much of his music. That said, I totally get your love for his thoughtful and honest lyricism and soulful, laid back singing style.

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