Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks

  • Where's the Money? [Blue Thumb, 1971] B
  • Striking It Rich! [Blue Thumb, 1972] B+
  • Last Train to Hicksville [Blue Thumb, 1973] B
  • Tangled Tales [Surfdog, 2009] Choice Cuts
  • Crazy for Christmas [Surfdog, 2011] B+

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Where's the Money? [Blue Thumb, 1971]
If Hicks's acoustic stylings react against the excesses of counterculture futurists, then the key moment on this live album comes when he corrects "his wife" with "I should say old lady" and no one laughs. Hicks is delicate, tuneful, and droll, with an ear for colloquial history in words and music both, but he's so diffident about focus that his mock nostalgia is too easy to mistake for the right thing. B

Striking It Rich! [Blue Thumb, 1972]
This isn't as long on ambient whimsy as Where's the Money?, but that's OK--makes a less distracting showcase for an artist who's much better at writing songs than at contextualizing them. I count seven I'd be delighted to hear somebody cover, and it's fun to hear Hicks's own outfit go after them. Best contextualization: Maryann Price's interpretation of "I'm an Old Cowhand." B+

Last Train to Hicksville [Blue Thumb, 1973]
On Where's the Money? I had to work to figure out why I wasn't responding; on this one I have to think to figure out why I am. Well, dozens of touches--Hicks's musical wit is undiminished, with John Girton's acoustic plectra especially charming. But the words aren't sharp enough to cut the band's chronic cuteness. B

Tangled Tales [Surfdog, 2009]
"Song for My Father" Choice Cuts

Crazy for Christmas [Surfdog, 2011]
Crazy because he's always been pleasantly nuts, but also because he's crazy not just as a result of but about Christmas, which as all Christmas fans know is a combination with a shot at making the holiday as full of good cheer as it's supposed to be. Scatting "Here Comes Santa Claus" as one retro strategy among many, Hicks lays out an "Old Fashioned Christmas" complete with "Bethlehem scene on the lawn/And a picture of Rudolph in the john" as the elves in "Santa's Workshop" paint millions of wooden boats and planes. Remember wood? This is a good-humored sixtysomething who wants to teach his grandkids the old-timey verities. Then he'll take a nap. B+