A survivor of the '60s Haight, Dan Hicks was an original member of the Charlatans, one the scene's quintessential bands, before splitting off to form his subversive, surrealistic swing outfit, the Licks. He quickly made a name for himself as a supernaturally eccentric songwriter with a wit as dry as the Sahara and tongue so far in cheek it practically bursts out the other side. His hipster vocal style, full of slurs and innuendo, sometimes races along like a mix of Leon Redbone and Mose Allison on speed. Sometimes he croons with an ear toward Bing Crosby, other times he gets a bit dusty á la Bob Wills, or sounds like he should be fronting Django's Hot Club. And all the while the Andrews Sisters-esque Lickettes chime in for comic (and harmonic) effect. The music, meanwhile, is a delightful jumble of vintage jazz, folk, country, Tin Pan Alley, Western swing, jug band, and blues. After a long hiatus, Hicks revived the Licks about a decade ago to wide acclaim. The new Tangled Tales (Surfdog) is just that, boasting a slew of hotshot guests (David Grisman, Richard Greene, Roy Rogers, Charlie Musselwhite) and eight spiffy new Hicks originals concerned with twisted rodeo cowboys on the make, "pollutin' the air with that cell phone sound," rounders, and a girlfriend so fine she's like "a pork chop dinner with a big baked potato and a side of peas." The cool covers include Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and the ancient wacky nugget "The Blues My Naughty Baby Gave to Me." The quirky pleasures Hicks has been giving to audiences for 40-very-odd years are brilliantly idiosyncratic and irresistible.
Sat., May 16, 7 p.m., 2009