The last time Dan Hicks cruised through the province, the longtime San Francisco resident was re-introducing himself to audiences that hadn’t caught him in action in years.
We’re talking the mid-nineties and the slightly eccentric tunesmith and purveyor of what he has termed folk-jazz was touring, not with the Hot Licks, but with a band he had dubbed The Acoustic Warriors.
Okay, I just googled his name and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and it was the summer of 1994 to be exact, and at that time Hicks also snuck in a performance at The Sidetrack Café the night prior to the festival kick-off.
I was just one of many fans of his musical brew that fused vintage jazz rhythms with cool country swing. Hicks had never toured the Canadian prairies with any of his bands, which included equally talented instrumentalists and vocalists who presented a sound with an accompanying visual flair that set them apart from the hipsters of the day.
So it came as a little bit of disappointment that while interviewing the man whom I had admired musically for years, for a CBC television music magazine program called Country Beat, I was wishing aliens would abduct and transport me to another planet.
It was evident from the outset of the sit-down that Hicks wasn’t into any aspect of communicating with me, or what could potentially be a large national audience. Thankfully it was one of those rare experiences, but one that you don’t forget.
Well I have read my share of Hicks-related show and album reviews over the past few years since he put his Hot Licks back on his front burner and even watched a couple of Hicks clips on Youtube, and am pleased to report that he comes across as a man who is living in a decidedly different chapter of his life than the one I witnessed in ’94.
With Hicks making two appearances in Alberta this week, one for Fish Creek Concerts in Calgary on Friday and another in Sherwood Park at Festival Place on Saturday, I received a call from the publicity office Hicks employs and was asked if I would be interested in talking to the man who had his first taste of success as a member of The Charlatans during the heyday of the psychedelic sixties in ‘Frisco.
Why not, I thought. Hicks. recordings like Strikin’ It Rich and Where’s The Money still found their way onto my turntable after all these years. One uncomfortable interview session didn’t dampen any of the enjoyment I felt when hearing songs like I Scare Myself, Moody Richard, By Hook or By Crook, How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away, I’m An Old Cowhand, Walkin’ One and Only and Waitin’ On the 103.
Sure enough, the man on the phone last week was cordial and laid back, and as much as Hicks is not nearly as animated as he can be on stage, there was no questioning his sincerity while talking about his early days in San Francisco making music, members of his current Hot Licks line-up, his onetime producer Tommy LiPuma, and side projects away from the Hot Licks.
“I do think I am singing better than I ever have,” says the singer, tunesmith and bandleader who has been a California resident since he was a pre-schooler and who turns 70 in December.
“Taking singing lessons a few years ago was a good thing; I know I can sing circles around the stuff I hear on my old albums. But I still do a lot of the material from those first few records, and I think Where’s The Money is my favorite largely because I really liked the time and what was going on at the time that record was made,” said Hicks, who feels audiences will be impressed by his current band.
One individual who is part of the talent pool that Hicks draws on is vocalist Roberta Donnay who has recorded and released six solo jazz albums, acted as music supervisor on a handful of films, made appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival with both Hicks and saxophonist Dave Ellis, and won her share of regional awards.
In short, Hicks set the bar high with his first Hot Licks unit that went into the recording studio over four decades ago and things haven’t changed in that department over the years.
So, it’s a good bet that Mr. Hicks will be delivering the goods this Friday and Saturday in Calgary and Edmonton respectively and good seats are available for both shows. So if you are a Dan Hicks fan, make your move now as this might be his last pass through this part of the world.
If anyone was wondering if the Western Canadian Music Alliance was taking a big chance in holding the annual conference and awards show in Whitehorse, it appears that the distance from the historic Yukon town from western Canadian centres has not been a deterrent for many members of our regional music community.
Looking at the schedules that have just been posted on the BreakOut West website, artist showcases are filled with a cross section of rock, pop and roots artists from all points due south, south west and south east of the historic city.
Little Miss Higgins, Jim Byrnes, Steve Dawson, Wool On Wolves, The Sojourners, Romi Mayes, Jordan Cook, Ruth Moody, Tupelo Honey, Ridley Bent, Oh My Darling, and Sweatshop Union are just a few of the profile artists who have committed to the event that takes over Whitehorse from October 20 thru 23.
The four-day affair culminates with The Western Canadian Music Awards Gala. This year 54-40 will be the recipient of the 2011 Hall Of Fame Award. The Awards will be presented at the Yukon Arts Centre during on the evening of Sunday, October 23.
The Western Canadian Music Alliance has also organized a full slate of forums and workshops on a multitude of music industry topics aimed at managers, artists, promoters and agents.
For complete information on the event head to breakoutwest.ca