By Dave McIntyre, Lyons Bluesologist
In a career that has its start in the beginnings of the San Francisco rock music scene as a drummer for the nearly forgotten rock group, the Charlatans (the band that some say, “started it all”), through a series of classic recordings in the 1970’s as leader of Dan Hicks and
the Hot Licks (a Django Reinhardt-flavored acoustic ensemble), Dan Hicks has always been brand-name musical entertainment. He is a sly, wry laconic voice of reason in an often bewildering world. Too arch, and perhaps caustic for mainstream acclaim in the long run, Hicks nevertheless endeared himself greatly to a fanatical few asking the musical questions, “Where’s The Money?” or “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”
“ I do some jazz stuff,” he says. “I consider myself, in a certain way, a jazz artist. I also consider myself a folk artist. I don’t think I’m a jazz guitar player. I’m a folk guy; I’m a jazz guy. I’m not afraid to do some jazz up there on stage. I’m no Leonard Cohen,” he says. "I’m not out there as the songwriter. I’m out there as the singer and player, although a lot of songs I wrote will be out there, too.” Hicks who has been almost criminally ignored by the music industry establishment and critical elite, found his own style to suit his character and musical skills. He is a skillful observer, a dry raconteur, and one of the few songwriters still working who deserves to be described as witty. He is, in the title of one of his songs, “The Walking One and Only.” Dan Hicks is widely acknowledged as one of the central defining figures in American roots music. Hicks has earned a reputation as a true original with his signature eclecticism and humor. He continues to carve his own way through a number of genres from proto-psychedelia, to western swing and jazz; from Tin Pan Alley to country blues, all the while cultivating his own unique sound.
The original Hot Licks recorded five groundbreaking and Billboard-charting records for Columbia, Blues Thumb, and the Warner Brothers labels. They toured worldwide and Dan appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine three times. The newest incarnation of Dl & Hl released the wildly successful “Beatin The Heat” in 2000, featuring collaborations with Bette Midler, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones, and Brian Setzer. USA Today called it “one of the blessings of the new millennium.” That release was followed by the live CD ,“Alive & Lickin” in 2001, and the CD/DVD “Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks - Featuring An All Star Cast Of Friends.” Both Mojo and Downbeat Magazines rated it four stars; one of the best CDs of 2004.
The release of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks 2009 CD (and Dan’s tenth career studio album), “Tangled Tales,” was produced by Grammy-winner Chris Goldsmith (Blind Boys of Alabama). The widely acclaimed release on Surfdog features all new Dan Hicks original songs. To quote Daily Variety, “Dan Hicks is at the top of his game. Unlike many pop artists today a new studio album from Dan Hicks is like a new painting from Picasso.” Just released in June, “Live at Davies” features the best of Dan’s 70th birthday celebration captured live in San Francisco with guest stars galore all performing several of Dan’s biggest hits as well as some never before released songs.
I have been a fan of this man’s music and style since the beginning in the 60’s, so you could understand when I got a chance to bring him and The Hot Licks to Oskar Blues (9 p.m., on Saturday, June 22), I couldn’t refuse. This is a show that should not be missed by fans of witty songs and arrangements! Where else can you see this musical icon in a small intimate settings? Don’t pass up the chance to see and hear this magical group of musicians. You may not ever get another chance to see him up close and personable, as it should be with his music.