Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dylan Hicks' Ad Out on CD

Have you ever been blind-sided by something that's quiet, gentle and disarmingly familiar? I have. It happened with this modest little CD from a guy named Dylan Hicks who is sort of an amalgam of '70s singer-songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and a half-dozen other guys who possess an easygoing and subtle intelligence. Hicks, who hails from Minnesota, fancies himself as a "singer, songwriter, minor novelist, folk pianist, essayist and odd-jobber." His lyrics express simple pleasures of love and companionship, but they're also very literate in a direct way--this guy knows how to turn a phrase in a very precise way. His stories aren't vaguely poetic--they name people and places and times with alarming specificity.

That's right, he's one of those guys who's still a storyteller. Whether he's talking about bartenders named Amanda, your father's charcoal suit or a set of rumble strips where your girlfriend used to ride her bike, Hicks zeroes in on the little details in life that stick in your mind for a long time after the song is over. That's the novelist in him, adding important details--the Swiftian "two shoes, not mates." It's a relaxed sort of genius, one that might slip by unnoticed.

Hicks band is interesting as well, with lots of banjos and pedal steel guitars dancing around a basic mid-temp rock ensemble that centers mostly around his friendly, likeable voice and his piano. His songs adhere to a certain pop economy, but he can also shift into Steely Dan jazz-rock with a sudden appearance of a big horn section. He does country-rock especially well--the twang is used sparingly yet effectively. There's a consistency to the core of his songs so that he can dabble with different arrangements and still sound like Dylan Hicks, singer-songwriter.

The sound quality of this album is surprisingly good for what is basically a small label release. It feels live and genuine. These songs feel borne from the bars and the small clubs and the taverns. Hicks has created a small gem here, and it deserves notice.

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