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John Hiatt: 'Terms of My Surrender'

"Terms of My Surrender" (New West Records) is John Hiatt's 22nd studio album — a low-key gem filled with 11 brilliantly written songs delivered in his evocative gruff growl.

The settings are bluesy, stripped down Chicago-style on "Nothin' I Love," a poker-playing, cigar-smoking ode to a woman, and harp-tinged on "Baby's Gonna Kick (Me Out Someday"), which contains some typically witty, perceptive lyrics.

There's little lightness on "Terms of My Surrender" — most easily found on the swinging love song "Marlene" and his funny take on "Old People," in checkout lines and on the highway. But the album is frequently pretty dark, questioning "how much more suffering before you see the face of God?" protesting the "thought police" — "they say you have no liberty if you're who they're looking for" — on the banjo-and-percussion based "Wind Don't Have to Hurry," and telling the story of a Vietnam vet for whom the fighting never ends on "Nobody Knew His Name."

"Terms of My Surrender" holds to its downbeat theme right through "Come Back Home," the story of a couple split up that closes one of Hiatt's better albums of late. Rating: 4 stars.

— L. Kent Wolgamott

John Hiatt: 'Terms of My Surrender'