By a reasonable measure of logic, Dan Hicks should be a household name and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee several times over. The quirky legend that gave us "I Scare Myself" back in the ‘60s and ‘70s returns with a jazzy, moving recording entitled Tangled Tales that is destined to become an instant classic.
Songs like the brilliantly sardonic opening track, "Who Are You?" (no, not the Who’s anthem) and "The Diplomat" examine Hicks’ surreal vocal penchant for unique improvisational phrasing. Simply put, it’s like a country artist that combines all of the disparate elements of psychedelic rock and big band jam into a seamless whole. Blues wailing enters into the groundwork on "The Rounder," replete with a blowing harmonica midsection, augmented by piercing violin twists and turns.
Gathering together a cream-of-the-crop collective of assisting players, Hicks puts to good use the talents of David Grisman, Charlie Musselwhite, Roy Rogers and Bruce Forman on the effortlessly swinging "13-D" and "Ragtime Country Joe." There is also a definitive cover of Dylan’s "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that stirs up the famous composition’s choppy syncopation and presents it as musical gumbo with hot sauce on the side.
Produced by Chris Goldsmith, Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks’ Tangled Tales is one for the time capsule, an accurate document of a player who has ignited a smokin’ good time on the planet earth through the better part of the past century.
Tangled Tales is out now on Surf Dog.