Dan Hicks and the Acoustic Warriors

By Paul Moffett

The faithful gathered at Jim Porter's on September 7 to hear Dan Hicks and his current band, the Acoustic Warriors. They were rewarded with the finest of living-room concerts from a songwriter/performer whose stage demeanor in the past was described by a longtime fan as that of a 'jerk.'

Hicks and Company were touring in support (more or less) of a 'new' CD, Shootin' Straight, Hicks' first project in fifteen years or so. That the CD is over a year old did not prevent Hicks from 'casually' plugging it several times, even though it was plain the many in the crowd owned a copy and knew all the songs.

Opening with "Canned Music," from Where's the Money? Hicks and the Warriors took the tune on what was to be the first of many go-around jams, with every player working through a solo.

The possibility of alien spacecraft was amusingly presented in "Hell, I'd Go," with Hicks asserting that the aliens came for "you, because you're sensitive" and that they "operated on your thumbs, but it was all right, because they had a technique that left no traces." The song featured the "Singing Martianettes" on background vocals.

And so on it went, with every other comment from Hicks framed by constant repetitions of "Ladies and Gentlemen," a stylistic comedy device that never quite wore thin. Hicks' remarks were shorthand distillations of years of stage comments, rather like Muhammed Ali's spurts of "floats like a butterfly" dancing in his later fights – a master demonstrating his abilities, but not for too long.

An extended version of "I Scare Myself" allowed guitarist Paul Robinson to show his chops, as did Stevie Black on violin, mandolin and guitar. Bassist Alex Baum earned the greatest applause for his fast, flashy bass solos.

All the acoustic pickers in the room looked as though they were wishing that they could be transported on stage to take a turn. The Acoustic Warriors are the very model of the kind of band every swing-fascinated musician dreams of playing with.

The atmosphere was so relaxed and casual that when the band took a break, it seemed as though they were just stepping into the kitchen for a quick snack. During the lull, Will Cary related a tale of first hearing Hicks at a 'college in New Hampshire' in 1971, at the peak of Hicks' success with Where's the Money?

"Then he came to our house, man, and rode in my van," Cary said. "He laid in the back of my van and tried to pick up Vickie." Rock 'n' roll, remembered at its best.

The second set opened with a rendition of a Jimmie Rodgers' tune, "When It's Peach-Pickin' Time in Georgia." Hicks credited Rodgers with "inventing the genre, although at the time the word 'genre' didn't exist. It's a French word, you know, that translates into the English as 'genre.' "

And so on it went, through "The Buzzard Was Their Friend," the classic faux-country "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?," which was written with "Vietnam in mind, but now it's a gnarly love song," "Barstool Boogie," "Milk Shakin' Mama" and "Reelin' Down That Old Highway."

The show was a hip dream, indeed, and ended in time for the aging boomers in the audience to catch more than a few winks before work. All left "Humming to Myself."