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.