Surf Dog, 2009
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/09/2009
Dan Hicks has sent out a call to the faithful, the quirky, the unusual and the eclectic to gather with the release of his new album.
Dan Hicks’ career extends back to the San Francisco folk movement in 1959. The years 1965-1968 found him as a member of the influential psychedelic rock group, The Charlatans. Leaving that group in 1968, he formed his first incarnation of the Hot Licks. They released a number of well-received albums, culminating in the brilliant Last Train To Hicksville in 1973. Hicks even managed to land himself on the cover of Rolling Stone not once but twice. At the height of the band’s popularity, however, he disbanded it. He then embarked on the next phase of his career with his new group The Acoustic Warriors.
In 2000 he reformed the Hot Licks, and Tangled Tales is their fifth album release. He has surrounded himself with a stellar cast of musicians on this disc; mandolin player David Grisman, harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musslewhite, slide guitarist Roy Rogers, bluegrass violin player Richard Green, and swing guitarist Bruce Forman are all on board.
His music has been labeled as outlaw country swing. I would call it psychotic country swing, and I say that with reverence. The instrumentals hearken back to the era and style of Bob Wills, but the staccato-paced vocals and lyrics are irreverent, witty, dry, odd, and some of the best that are currently being written.
There are eight new original compositions here plus four covers, and all are presented in typical Dan Hicks fashion. His vocals are in fine shape and he continues to perform with two female vocalists as on his classic releases of the past.
“Who Are You?” features an accordion sound and a shuffle beat. “The Diplomat” provides interplay between the fiddles and acoustic guitar plus some of the humorous lyrics that he is famous for. “Blues My Naughty Baby” is my particular favorite; women, swimming, no bathing suits, and liquor all form the basis of the story. He even throws in some scat singing for good measure.
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks have an original sound. It may be quirky at first listen, but there is an underlying brilliance to it all. Any new material by him is always welcome and you can be sure not only of a good listening experience but some fun along the way.
Come join the faithful.