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For Hot Licks, Life in Hicksville Continues to Be Pretty Relaxed

Pop Music Review

September 22, 2000|RANDY LEWIS

Surely Dan Hicks was never pegged in school as most likely to change the world. Most likely to spend adulthood in a hammock, perhaps.

So even when his singular gypsy-jazz-jug-band music zips along at a snappy tempo, the Bay Area-based bandleader has instilled a "We're in no hurry, boys" feeling in whatever he does.

That remains the guiding ethic of the reconstituted version of Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, which stopped Wednesday at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana.

If the players, except for Hicks, have changed, the musical blueprint hasn't: a meeting of Django Reinhardt-Stephane Grappelli jazz and Bob Wills Western swing with wry, Cole Porter-esque wordplay and large doses of hipster attitude.

At this performance, however, the group seemed to have just two speeds--a loping samba and a jazzy quickstep, both of which the new band members handled with aplomb, but which cumulatively cast a certain monotony over this stretched-out return to Hicksville.

Further, Hicks' relaxed vocals have grown even more relaxed and occasionally slouched over the fine line between skillfully laid-back and lethargic.

About a third of the material came from the Hot Licks' new "Beatin' the Heat" album, the best of which was the dryly humorous "I Don't Want Love." Vintage Hot Licks songs included "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?," recast as a country shuffle, "Canned Music" and "Payday Blues."

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