NASHVILLE (Billboard) - The musical legacy of Walter Hyatt easily could have come to an end when his life did, in the May 11, 1996, crash of ValuJet flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. But because of the dedication of his widow, Heidi, and the vision of producer Michael Killen, Hyatt’s music is finding new life.
“Some Unfinished Business: Volume 1” is a living testament to Hyatt’s music. Released by King Tears Music and available at kingtearsmusic.com, the album is culled from recordings he made in the months preceding his death and features newly recorded instrumental contributions from David Ball, Jerry Douglas and Alison Moorer.
Hyatt, who was 46 when he died, found critical acclaim as a member of Uncle Walt’s Band, a trio he formed with fellow South Carolinians Ball and Champ Hood. The three men built a loyal following in Austin, and their fans included Lyle Lovett, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Nanci Griffith. (Lovett later produced one of Hyatt’s solo CDs, the MCA release “King Tears.”)
Heidi Hyatt was determined to share her husband’s music, but it took a while to make it happen. Eventually she hooked up with producer Killen, who waded through the dozens of recordings and began to form a plan. “Michael really found the essence of Walter,” she said. “It’s what his music was supposed to be.”
Accompanying someone who had died years earlier was a new experience for Douglas. “It wasn’t trying to please the producer so much as it was trying to please this spirit,” he said. “You didn’t want to do anything that would have been out of character for Walter.”
In addition to new songs that display Hyatt’s forays into New Orleans jazz, bluegrass and country, there are reworked versions of Uncle Walt’s Band classics, including “Motor City Man” and “Deeper Than Love,” which Jerry Jeff Walker has covered.
With 46 songs recorded, Heidi Wyatt says there will be at least one more album. “I would like to put out all of Walter’s material and get it heard.”