Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks / Dan Hicks

Crazy for Christmas

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Ever since his time with San Francisco’s Charlatans in the late 1960s (he was the drummer in the short-lived but influential group), Dan Hicks has been turning out his fascinatingly wry, hip, and jazzy version of country swing, and while he’s had no mainstream commercial success (i.e. no big radio hits), he has a loyal and devoted following and now, some 40-plus years later, he’s released a delightful holiday album that perfectly spotlights his musical strengths. Crazy for Christmas has an easy, unhurried and charming pace to it, with Hicks’ assured, relaxed vocals giving this set of skewed originals, parodies, and traditional pieces (albeit run through the Hot Licks wringer) a joyously irreverent charm. The opener, “Christmas Mornin’,” sets the stage perfectly, detailing life at the North Pole with Christmas Eve approaching, a place where Rudolph the Reindeer is “finishing up a beer” and Santa has to break up the elves’ dice game to get things rolling in the right direction. Then there’s “I’ve Got Christmas by the Tail,” which sums up how everyone really wants to feel during one of the most socially demanding and busy times of the year. The traditional holiday fare that Hicks tackles here, like his swinging vocal version of “Carol of the Bells,” is wonderfully re-imagined, making this set both a fun and distinctive Christmas album, but also a warm reminder of just how consistent, steady, and poignantly funny Hicks can be; any season of the year.

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