Saturday, June 17, 2006

People you'd like to meet

I've always had this idea that Jonathan Richman should have the same status in the world of music as Bruce Springsteen. Not because they do anything particularly similar, because they don't, nor because I think Springsteen is overrated, because I think he's pretty good. No, it's because Richman does what he does so wonderfully and with such passion that in a better world his virtues would be recognized, and he'd be at least halfway up the same ladder as Springsteen.

That would all be more relevant to a post on Jonathan Richman, however, which this is not, but it's worth a mention because Dan Hicks has been making his music for ten years longer than either of the guys mentioned above. His style has been variously categorized as "folk jazz" or "jazz jive", neither of which seem to me to make any sense whatsoever; so my own contribution to the debate takes the form of suggesting that Dan Hicks was "alt country" before there was anything else "alt" to draw inspiration from. It's the same reasoning (I think) that makes Richman a pre-punk punk.

If you don't like country (I don't) don't let that put you off. He isn't especially country. Dan Hicks makes thoughtful, medlodic and very attractive music, always pleasing but never cliched. His subject matter is sometimes pretty leftfield but his charming and witty songs make you think about the ordinary in ways you hadn't considered before without making you feel silly for not doing so, and I think this is because he simply doesn't take the whole thing seriously enough. It's too much fun having fun. This is perhaps one of the reasons behind his relative obscurity (despite an adoring following among those who know): he simply isn't worried about hitting the heights. He sings like one of those people who wakes up every morning and thinks to himself, "Wow, I'm making a reasonable living from just having fun. How cool is that?"

And that's why I like him. He does what he does magnificently and has never aimed for world domination. His love of music has resulted in his taking the greatest care over what he makes and prevented him from seeing it merely as a means to an end. Well, that's speculation, but my thinking is that if that wasn't true, he'd have given up thirty years ago. But he's still out there. If he's new to you and you like the tracks attached below, the good news is, there's a great back catalogue to catch up with.

Dan Hicks - I feel like singing
Dan Hicks - News from up the street

Buy Dan Hicks, Return to Hicksville from

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