Bill Hicks

South of Nowhere

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Bill Hicks played fiddle and sang in the Red Clay Ramblers for nearly ten years, honing his old-time credentials. Now he's back with his partner of 18 years, Libby Hicks, with South of Nowhere, an eclectic album of blues, traditional tunes, and a few originals. "Dog Passed a Ryestraw" jumpstarts the album, featuring Bill Hicks' wonderful fiddle playing. His fiddle playing, in fact, is one of the highlights of the album. It's particularly fascinating on a tune like "Big Road Blues," leaving one to wonder why the fiddle isn't utilized more often on blues songs. There are a number of nice originals like the relaxed "The Island Rockers" and the poignant "Anasazi Premonition." Both pay close attention to small details, and are more "slices of life" than narratives. The background singing on "Evenin' Breeze" may be a little much, meaning too cute, and this distracts from an otherwise good song (with great fiddle work). The same thing happens with the lovely blues song, "Reelin' Down." Daughter Anna Hicks offers a quiet version of Jay Farrar's "Tear Stained Eye," and it's fascinating how well this song works in this stripped-down context. In many ways it becomes a different song, more old country than alt-country. Bill and Libby Hicks also sing a couple of pleasant duets -- "Beautiful" and "Turn Out the Lights" -- to round out the menagerie of styles and approaches on South of Nowhere. This eclectic family effort should please anyone who enjoys old-time music and fantastic fiddling. For those who have been waiting not so patiently for a new disc from Bill Hicks, wait no longer.

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