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John Hiatt is a journeyman rocker, a battered but unbowed coulda-been-a-contender who’s garnered comparisons to Elvis Costello and had his songs covered by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Iggy Pop. He’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll. If Hiatt’s veering from lane to lane down the pop highway has made for a more interesting ride, it has also made it that much harder to find the elusive turnoff to that Big Rock Candy Mountain. And though it’s a solid slab of alt-country, 2003’s Beneath This Gruff Exterior probably won’t alter his career trajectory. Still, you should head over and show this lifer a little love. He plays until Friday; tonight he’s with Jake Shimabukuro at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $45. (703) 549-7500. (Michael Little)