Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks – Tangled Tales (2009)

Posted by Green on August 28, 2019as


Dan Hicks has hardly changed a thing in the four decades since the first Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks record and, in this case, that’s a good thing. Why mess with perfection? In the late ’60s, after exiting San Francisco’s infamous psychedelic folk-rock pioneers the Charlatans, Hicks took bits from Western swing and the regular kind, jug band music, traditional folk, bluegrass, cowboy tunes, Gypsy jazz, and even a bit of bossa nova, added female call-and-response vocals and a healthy dose of droll sarcasm and hipster humor, put it all together in impeccably written tunes and virtuosic playing, and somehow sold this unlikely package to audiences that otherwise preferred rock & roll. He’s dropped the Hot Licks at times to perform solo and in other configurations, then after the turn of the century decided to return to that formula with an all new Hot Licks. The latest result is Tangled Tales, an album that could easily have been released alongside those early gems like Where’s the Money? and Original Recordings instead of in 2009. Hicks’ distinctly original vocal style is absolutely unchanged from back in the day, and the arrangements of the chosen tunes are in line with what he’s always done. Five of these songs appeared in different versions on his 1994 album Shootin’ Straight with his short-lived group the Acoustic Warriors, but here they are recast as classic Hot Licks numbers. In addition to the original Hicks compositions, the album offers a handful of intriguing covers, including a spirited take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and Hicks’ interpretation of Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father,” with lyrics added to the instrumental melody by singer Leon Thomas in the ’70s. For the occasion, Hicks invited several diverse guest artists to augment the current band, among them mandolinist David Grisman, harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite, violinist Richard Greene, and blues guitarist Roy Rogers. That they all blend seamlessly into the Hicks template is a tribute to Hicks’ impact in a genre that is truly his and his alone.


  • Don says:

    Thanks Green. Dan Hicks has been one of my favorite artists going way back.

  • Slidewell says:

    Recently finished Dan’s memoir, ‘I Scare Myself’. Get it at Amazon. It’s written in his unmistakable droll voice, and gives a great picture of the burgeoning hippie scene in San Francisco as an aside to Dan’s funky folk beginnings, to his rise as the drummer in The Charlatans, and finally as the Moody Master of String Swing. Be prepared, though, as his ‘dark period’ is rough going, and it certainly scared myself. Thankfully he was able to work through it and resume his wonderful, unique career. A true original, he is sorely missed in these dreary auto-tuned, synth-and drum machine days.

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