With over eighty classical compositions under his belt, Kevin Hiatt uses the guitar as a tapestry for his musical inventions. If you've seen him at Mad Anthony or other local venues, you know that even though he has a doctorate in musical composition, his music is enjoyable and easy on the ear. Still, it's far from the fluff that characterizes some new age guitar albums that choke the shelves. Another Look at the Sunrise is Kevin's debut album, containing four vocal songs and eight extended acoustic guitar adventures utilizing exotic altered tunings on six, seven, and twelve string guitars.
"Another Look at the Sunrise (Part Two)" opens the album in a brash introduction to Hiatt's playing style, a breathing, flowing approach not chained to a strict robotic metronome tempo. Described as "finger calisthenics", this track is full of percussive slapping, two-hand tapping and other advanced playing techniques sure to make any guitarist salivate profusely. "In a Dervish Circle" is based on Sufi dancing experiences and indeed, the quickly cascading rhythms create whirling patterns that slow suddenly and then escalate to a feverish pitch, effectively emulating the dances this piece is based upon. The aptly titled "Song Without Words" is a lyrical ode to Mendelssohn and plays like a warm summer walk in virgin fields full of wildflowers. Written and played on a seven string, "Brand New Tattoo" pits percussive slapping against a catchy melody, interrupted briefly by a flurry of harmonics.
While much of the album is solo acoustic guitar, a few tracks feature Paul Carlson on violin. "The Golden Flow" is a shining example of the magic created by the pairing of violin and guitar where the violin carries the weeping lyrical melody, floating serenely over the rhythmic guitar in a perfect marriage. Four of the tracks take a break from the complex instrumental form with standard song structures and vocals. "Life in a Coffee Shop" includes violin, flowing arpeggio guitar chords, and a memorable, haunting vocal melody. Opening with an extended harmonica solo (by Mr. Hiatt himself), "What You're Worth" also incorporates electric bass and plaintive lyrics in a bluesy, easy-listening format. While it's obvious that Kevin has spent thousands of hours perfecting his guitar technique he unfortunately falls prey to the myth that singing does not require an equal amount of devotion to breathing and phrasing techniques, detracting from an otherwise excellent collection of impressive guitar compositions. Regardless, the strength of the melodies and compositions plus the impressive acoustic guitar technique will make this album appeal to fans of Michael Hedges, Preston Reed, Phil Keaggy albums, and other acoustic guitar gurus. Available at Wooden Nickel, Borders, Barnes & Noble, B-Sharp Music, and Amazon.com.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2002.