Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 22, 2011

John Hammond/Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
April 18, 2011
by Eric Sutter

Two American figures of acoustic roots music shared a double bill at Colonial Theatre. Steady grooves were evident in both John Hammond's acoustic blues, as well as Dan Hicks' quirky brand of acoustic Americana which lent itself as much to swing as to twang. Hammond appeared solo with his guitars and harmonica. He interpreted blues standards, gut bucket boogie, country blues, and his original blues compositions about love gained and lost through the complex narrative of his own wayward soul. His Delta inspired songbook included Robert Johnson's "Come On Into My Kitchen" and Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied." He translated the intensity and authenticity of blues classics "When Things Go Wrong (It Hurts Me Too) and "That's All Right." The blues are a living, breathing, and feeling thing and Hammond, now in his 50th year on the road, is a legendary master at live performance. His own songs, "You Know That's Cold" and "Heartache Blues" captured the loneliness of the blues soundscape. His resonator slide guitar echoed nicely. Incidentally, Hammond is up for induction into the Blues Hall of Fame on May 4th.

Dan Hicks' music encompassed a vast body of swingin' country and blues tunes which he dubbed "Caucasian Hip Hop." A phenomenal showman with a flair for absurdity, he performed in a laid back vocal style with The Hot Licks and The Lickettes. The female duo Lickettes provided their sweet background harmonies and percussion to many of his "Tangled Tales" which is the title of their latest CD. The amusing songs, "The Piano Has Been Drinking," "Along Came the Viper," and "I Scare Myself" were fitted with the snuggly warmth of castenets, finger cymbals and Benito Cortez's smooth violin. Clever arrangements of "Waitress in the Donut Shop" and "I Feel Like Singing" featured scat singing by the Lickettes. Hicks, voice is not to be downplayed... he sang the groove out of "Payday Blues." They finished with "Can Music." A raucous call for an encore led to a jivin' "The Buzzard Was Their Friend."