Walter Hyatt Returns with 'Unfinished Business' Walter Hyatt's widow, Heidi, has finished one of her husband's last albums. The singer-songwriter who inspired Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith left more than 40 tracks behind when he died in a plane crash in 1996. Some Unfinished Business showcases the variety of styles that Hyatt played and wrote.

Walter Hyatt Returns with 'Unfinished Business'

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Those who knew singer and songwriter Walter Hyatt talk of his gentle spirit, his adventurous musical taste, his influence on a lot of singers in Austin and Nashville. Walter Hyatt died in the ValuJet plane crash 12 years ago. He was 46.

Now, there's a new collection of his songs, his voice and guitar, recorded in the months before he died with new musical accompaniment from some longtime friends.

(Soundbite of song "Deeper than Love")

Mr. WALTER HYATT (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) Oh my dearest darling, I'm no one's sweetheart now. I thought love's behind me, but it's never right somehow.

BLOCK: Walter Hyatt's widow, Heidi, oversaw the project titled "Some Unfinished Business."

Ms. HEIDI HYATT (Walter Hyatt's Wife): I pretty much knew I had to do it the moment I heard what had happened to Walter. I just knew it had fallen on my shoulders. And immediately, you really start talking about, I want to make sure Walter's music's heard, that other people are playing his songs. I mean, I said it right away. Now, I just have to do this.

(Soundbite of song "Reach for Me")

BLOCK: It have been a lot of fun, I would think, on the song "Reach for Me" to be able to have Walter - your late husband - singing with The Jordanaires now, that's so cool.

Ms. HYATT: It's great.

(Soundbite of song "Reach for Me")

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) …but man can live on bread and honey alone.

Ms. HYATT: Oh, that was just the greatest I brought my kids in the studio that day because, I was like, you got to be here for this. Just to see what they come up with and how it added to the song, that was thrilling.

BLOCK: He had never sung with them before, I'm assuming.

Ms. HYATT: No, I'm sure that would have been - hmm, he would have loved that.

(Soundbite of song "Reach for Me")

Mr. HYATT: When it looks like life just can't go on, reach for me and I'll be over, baby. When things ain't right you have me to hold me tight.

THE JORDANAIRES (Group): (Singing) Reach for me and then rock me…

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) Oh, my baby.

BLOCK: It's such a great sound. I mean, it does - you can sort of imagine Elvis coming in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HYATT: That's what everyone says, yeah. That's an Elvis song, right. Yeah, well, Walter - he sang some Elvis songs. He loved Elvis. So definitely, I mean, that would have been a thrill in his life.

BLOCK: You know, the voice is such an intimate thing. I mean, I would think it would be very tough, emotionally, to be listening to these songs sometimes.

Ms. HYATT: Oh, yeah. It was very hard for a long time. I think that's one of the things about - kind of he 10-year mark. I started to be able to present it as something outside of myself. But it was tough being in the studio, it was tough. Now, I look at it as this thing that I can give to other people and that - and I know they go through the emotions, but I don't stop and think about Walter when I do it. Some recordings had songs I'd never even heard before. So that was very painful, but very thankful that they were there - all these recordings.

BLOCK: Is there a song on the CD that was new to you - something you hadn't heard?

Ms. HYATT: I believe I had not heard the song "When you're Alone."

(Soundbite of song "When you're Alone")

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) When you're alone then your own way is clearer. Why didn't I, your kiss from above.

BLOCK: "When You're Alone" is just wonderful, gentle, ballad and, of course, now, I mean, it's a very - I would think - a song that you hear very differently than you would have if he were singing it to you 15 years ago. I mean, it has a whole new resonance, I think.

Ms. HYATT: Well, it's like I got to see him - something he went through that I didn't even know he was going through. Like when he wrote that song, I think there was something, you know, he needed to say and we're just living life and hurrying along and not thinking about it. And that's very pensive and deep and - like I said, you get busy and you just don't talk about your deeper self with, you're raising kids and doing the dishes and trying to make money.

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) When you're alone, hmm.

Ms. HYATT: I hear it like a prayer, it's that meditative time when you try to get in touch with, you know, why you're here and - maybe I didn't realize the meditative time he needed.

BLOCK: You know, Walter was interviewed on this program back in 1990. He talked with Noah Adams.

Ms. HYATT: Really.

BLOCK: And one of the things he talked about was what made him want to be a singer when he was young. Can I play you a part of the interview?

Ms. HYATT: I'd love to hear that.

(Soundbite of archived interview)

Mr. HYATT: Mostly, I just wanted to be on stage and, you know, create some excitement and some feeling. I don't know. You just - I remember going to this show when I was a kid. There was a group that was singing this song -remember that song "Little Darling"?

NOAH ADAMS: Sure.

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) Oh little darling.

ADAMS: Yeah. Right.

Mr. HYATT: Oh, you know, the people went wild and I went wild. And I just thought, boy, if you can turn people on like this, even for just a few minutes it would be the greatest thing in the world.

BLOCK: Isn't that great?

Ms. HYATT: Yeah. Oh, I love that. He just - he had - you know, he had something he had to express and he loved to perform.

BLOCK: When he would come home after a show, did he - sort of have that vibration of having been on stage and made that connection with an audience?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HYATT: It was hard coming home, I think, because, you know - playing is what he wanted to do the most. And a stage and a roomful of people - that was - you know, I can't relate, but I'm not comfortable with that. But for him, that was the perfect place.

BLOCK: You have two kids who were very young when their dad died.

Ms. HYATT: Yes.

BLOCK: What's it like for them to get to know their father in a way - this way, through his music as you've been working on it?

Ms. HYATT: Well, they were so young. Rosie was eight months old, Taylor was six. And I didn't push that they had to know music or anything, but my son's become a guitar player and my daughter plays piano, and they both love to sing. And what's so great is that she's 12, he's 18 and they're deciding for themselves they want to learn these songs. They want to be more involved in their dad's music.

(Soundbite of song "I'll Come Knocking")

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) When you want me, I'll come knocking at your door, at your door. One of these days now, you'll be rocking. You'll be rocking in my arm once more.

BLOCK: Well, Heidi Hyatt, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Ms. HYATT: Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of song "I'll Come Knocking")

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) I'll come knocking at your door, at your door.

BLOCK: Heidi Hyatt talking about the new collection of songs from her late husband, Walter Hyatt. It's titled "Some Unfinished Business."

(Soundbite of song "I'll Come Knocking")

Mr. HYATT: (Singing) You'll be rocking in my arms once more.

BLOCK: You can hear more songs at npr.org/music.

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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