Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks’ music defies categorization. It is at once folk, jazz, western swing and gypsy music, with a good dose of humour thrown in. Hicks began playing in the 1960s San Francisco folk music scene, appearing in local coffee houses. He was with the seminal San Francisco band the Charlatans from 1965 to 1968, after which he formed Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, a band that has since gone through many personnel changes.

On this Friday night, Hicks and the Hot Licks play two sets of distinctive music at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan. They play in the beautiful Diego Rivera Court beside the artist Rivera’s magnificent mural of power and industry.

In this poignant setting filled with oil paintings, including great American landscapes and triptychs of Jesus on the cross, the audience awaits the appearance of Dan Hicks. Spirits are high as the Rivera compositions in the background are monumental. The place is packed - standing room only.

Hicks appears dressed in a multi striped shirt and slacks and a polka dot tie, with an acoustic guitar strapped on. The band includes Benito Cortez on violin, David Bell on lead guitar and Paul Smith on bass as well as two female backup singers.

They start the show with a bit of instrumental gypsy jazz- rhythmic and rollicking.The band plays a hybrid of swing and folk as the talented violinist Cortez just wails. Next is ‘Canned Music’, a calypso kind of number and one of Hicks’ signature tunes.

Hicks states, “We’re playing hardcore Americana music here” as he goes into ‘Evening Breeze’, a song about his girl getting away. The bass player strums his instrument with a violin bow.

Hicks follows this with a cover version of the Tom Waits song ‘The Piano has Been Drinking’ which he delivers in an easy voice and down to earth fashion.

Dan Hicks is a gypsy influenced folk troubadour, playing western swing with a bit of scat yodeling thrown in. The Hot Licks are a fine band in the groove on this March night with standout violin, bass and lead guitar work.

The second set includes the traditionals ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ and ‘My Blue Heaven’ as well as a number of originals. The band concludes with the encore ‘Four or Five Times’.

Altogether Dan Hicks and company deliver a night of down home off beat folk music and swing- a unique treat.















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Commenting On: Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 12/3/2010 - Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks








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