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Fort Wayne-based acoustic guitar virtuoso Kevin Hiatt releases 2nd CD

Strange Ships On A Blue Horizon highlights a wide range of styles

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Fort Wayne-based guitarist and composer Kevin Hiatt sometimes says that he makes music for “guitar geekheads.”

He’s joking, of course; you don’t need to be a guitarist or a trained musician to appreciate Hiatt’s blend of concert classical music, folk and jazz. But Hiatt specializes in virtuosic acoustic guitar playing that rewards close listening. His latest CD, Strange Ships On A Blue Horizon, offers an excellent showcase for Hiatt’s mastery of a range of styles.

Produced by Kevin Hiatt and Jan Anderson Brothers and recorded at Neil Parnin’s Ozone recording studio, Strange Ships On A Blue Horizon is Hiatt’s second album. The 12 original compositions were drawn from what Hiatt calls an extensive repetoire of material. He’s accompanied on the CD by several local musicians, including Sam Smiley on electric guitar, Travis Brown on double bass, and Ryan Trinkofsky on drums.

Hiatt has made a name for himself locally as a “fingerstyle” guitarist, a playing style that incorporates a variety of techniques like tapping with both hands on the guitar neck and other percussive ways of playing the acoustic guitar. It’s a style which draws on his classical training, with nods to his influences like Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Michael Hedges. “Fingerstyle guitar applies to a technique not that much different than what classical guitarists do, it’s just on a steel-stringed acoustic guitar,” Hiatt says. “With the physics of the steel string, and the fact that it’s amplified, there’s things that a steel-string guitarist can do in the way of tapping with both hands, or slapping harmonics, even playing percussion on the guitar’s body to some extent. All those kinds of things come off in a much larger way because you’re amplified, so in a way it’s like the ultimate band-in-a-box. You’ve got percussion, bass line, harmony and melody. It’s all there, under the control of a single pair of hands.”

Many of the 12 tracks on Strange Ships On A Blue Horizon showcase his distinctive playing style, but there’s a wide range of textures, influences, and instrumentation going on here. Joe Kalisman contributes cello to the ballad “To Dance Beside A Whispering Sea,” while the final track, “Roadside Crosses,” is a fairly straight forward rock song that finds Hiatt ruminating on the dangers of a desolate stretch of highway.

Then there’s “Queen of the Red Lion” and “Daddy’s Little Girl,” story songs with a country-western flavor and steel string guitar courtesy of Gary Martin. “It’s not commercial country western,” Hiatt says. “I call it hippie country. It’s the kind of country from bygone days.”

Another track, “You Know Who to Call,” is almost straight ahead pop, with a sort of new wave synth line running through it. Hiatt, who organized the two Guitar Summit showcases at Cinema Center last year, says having these other elements on the CD — different types of songs and instrumentation — just makes it more interesting for a listener and brings in a wider audience. “I could have made an all-instrumental guitar CD, which would give me a limited listening audience; namely, other fingerstyle guitarists,” he says. “Eight of the tracks are instrumental, so that’s enough for the guitar heads to get their fill of flashy acoustic guitar playing. But I’m trying to address as broad a listening audience as I can.”

Hiatt will be performing at numerous venues in the next several weeks to promote the release. He’s also excited about working with vocalist Jenny Springer for some upcoming shows. “We’ve got this beautiful version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You,’” he says. “It’s like Joni is right there in the room. I think people’s jaws are going to drop when they hear it.”

Hiatt will be appearing at:

8/23, 7:00 PM
Factory Steakhouse Crossings Shops at Coldwater Road

8/25, 7:00 PM
Nicks at Don Halls GasHouse, 305 East Superior
Kevin Hiatt, solo acoustic, with Jenny Springer

8/26, 2005 - 7:00 PM
Borders Books

8/27, 8:00 PM
Maple Leaf Grille, Warsaw, IN

8/29, 7-9 Mitchell Books
6360 W Jefferson

Strange Ships on a Blue Horizon is available locally at Mitchell Books, Conser
Music, Borders, and Barnes and Noble.

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