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Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks



Article Published: Nov. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 19, 2011
Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks

Crazy for Christmas



It's that time of the year again, when Christmas music comes far too soon and Christmas itself doesn't come soon enough.

One can hear "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" only so many times before turning red and green in the face. The solution for this Christmas-induced nausea may be Crazy for Christmas, the latest offering from Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks.

Dan Hicks, always known as a musical weirdo, has been a cult hero in American music for more than four decades. Getting his start as a drummer in the psychedelic band The Charlatans in 1965, he left just three years later to form his acoustic ensemble Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

Hicks and His Hot Licks' tounge-in-cheek approach obtained national attention in the early '70s with hits "I Scare Myself" and "Canned Music." At the height of their popularity, Hicks even appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, but disbanded the Licks shortly after.

Though Dan Hicks has stayed occupied over the years, he waited until 2000 to bring back the Hot Licks. Though he's now in his late 60s, Hicks is still a cool cat riding the comeback trail. Crazy for Christmas is his first take on the much loved, sometimes loathed holiday.

Even when Hicks was younger, he played an older style of music. He calls his melding of folk, jazz, swing and country sounds "folk swing." Dan Hicks is a funky cowboy singer who breaks out the scat sometimes. With the Licks format, he employs the call-and-response technique with his inviting female "Lickettes." All of this happens over folksy guitar and jazzy violin.

Crazy for Christmas is an excellent example of Hicks' individual, distinct style and hilarious songwriting. Imagine a grumpy gray-haired guy in his long johns who drank far too much eggnog and a few attractive vixens in Santa suits singing around the tree. It makes for a very entertaining Christmas.

"Every year I get ants in my pants when Christmas comes along," explains Hicks in "I've Got Christmas by the Tail." Though there are a few traditional songs like "I Saw Mommy Kissin' Santa Claus" among Hicks' wacky originals, Crazy for Christmas is no run-of-the-mill holiday album.

Even Hicks' take on the well-known songs is way off-center. Probably the most inventive version of "Carol of the Bells" ever appears on Crazy for Christmas, involving scat singing and a chipmunk vocal track. "Santa's Gotta Choo-Choo" is Hicks' salute to famous country-blues song "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie."

Exhibiting their quirkiness, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks' vision of an "Old Fashioned Christmas" is "a Bethlehem scene on the lawn and a picture of Rudolph in the john." A combination of drinking exorbitant amounts of spirits and the Licks' eccentric version of Christmas music may just be the thing to pull someone through the holiday, as they reveal in the same song, "We'll be picking and grinning and holding onto our sanity."

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks certainly don't take Christmas seriously on Crazy for Christmas. They are necessarily irreverent; rather they have a different kind of appreciation of the holiday. Perhaps that is why it is such a fun listen. It's a good fit for those who love the holiday, but are absolutely sick of what comes out speakers everywhere each December.

Crazy for Christmas is necessary for any holiday hipster. Bah to Bah-humbug!
Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks are online at DanHicks.net.

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