John Hiatt and Joan Osborne to play Vilar |

John Hiatt and Joan Osborne to play Vilar

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” It’s hard to describe John Hiatt’s voice ” gruff, raspy, nasal ” but one thing’s for sure: Once you hear it, you’ll always know it’s his. Hiatt’s signature vocals have made his songs easy to recognize throughout his 35-year career as a musician and helped him achieve a slew of Grammy Award nominations ” though, unbelievably, he never actually won one.

In fact, Hiatt might be one of the biggest names in the industry to never really achieve a sustainable level of commercial success. Perhaps it’s because as soon as he makes a country-music-style album, he turns around and releases one that’s heavy on rock ‘n’ roll or bluegrass. He’s a musical chameleon who plays all things well, but there’s no mistaking his voice.

“He’s definitely one of those people (who) have quite a long career and then never really broke through into mainstream sales. A lot of people know about him, but most of the people (who) know about him are an older generation now,” said Tom Robbins, owner of Eagle Valley Music in Vail. “He’s got quite a big body of work and continually puts things out, and there’s a small but loyal following for him.”

Hiatt will perform with his band, The Ageless Beauties, Friday night in Beaver Creek.

“He’s a legend within that singer-songwriter world,” said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Hiatt’s latest CD, “Same Old Man,” does more to sum up the personality and meaning of his music than any tired speech or bio could. On the album, Hiatt sings of his past exploits, loves and lessons learned and reaffirms that through all he’s learned in life, he’s still the same person who began playing guitar in Indianapolis as a kid.

The show also will feature a performance by Joan Osborne, another singer-songwriter who has racked up much critical acclaim but only limited mainstream success.

Sabel has been trying to schedule this show for a while now because he said he’s aware of the cult following that both artists have.

“When I talk to people about (this show), people are usually like, ‘We don’t really know who those artists are,’ or they’re like, ‘You’re kidding me ” they’re going to be at the Vilar Center?'” Sabel said.

Friday night’s show at the Vilar Center may be one of the biggest underdog billings ever to come to the venue. Whereas Hiatt is adored by critics, has produced some of America’s most beloved songs and has been covered by everyone from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, Osborne is best known for her hit single “One of Us,” which made her hugely popular in the mid-’90s.

“I’m sure that will probably be the biggest hit of her career, but even from that song, people discovered her,” Robbins said. “(She’s) very talented, beautiful voice, very mellifluous.”

But Osborne’s song about God being an average Joe who takes the bus home from the city every day isn’t her only legacy. She played a large role in the documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” which received very positive reviews from major film critics, and her 10th studio album, “Little Wild One,” is set for release Tuesday.

“Joan Osborne definitely has the chops to handle many styles of music,” Robbins said.

High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

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