The Upshot: Singer-songwriter (and novelist) Austin-born/Minneapolis-based Hicks creates a delightful stew of Americana, soul, rock, and jazz.
BY FRED MILLS
Minneapolis raconteur Dylan Hicks describes himself as “singer-songwriter, minor novelist, folk pianist, essayist, and odd-jobber,” which is fair enough; last year he published second novel Amateurs and busied himself on various writing projects while prepping a new album. And on Ad Out he seems utterly relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, hardly the sound of someone who spends his days scraping and hustling and stressing. Fellow artists, take note: Here’s a guy showing you how life is supposed to be lived—enjoying it.
Ad Out, available on digital, CD, and sweet heavyweight vinyl (thumbs up!), follows 2012’s acclaimed Dylan Hicks Sings Bolling Greene (a kind of musical companion to his first novel, Boarded Windows), and as produced by John Munson and featuring the ensemble Hicks is “provisionally calling” The Dylan Hicks Retreat, the songwriter comes across as erudite and engaging, with a delightfully wry sense of humor lining the edges. Highlights? There’s the jaunty opener, “Interested Party,” wherein Hicks, in his trademark part-croon, part-drawl, part-sing/speak, rolls the word “interested” around in his mouth like a delicious piece of candy. “Asking For a Friend” could be a long-lost outtake from The Band, stately Americana with a gospel undercurrent, while the funky “I Was Made Anew” is a soulfully-rendered masterpiece boasting Hicks’ jazz ivories, wiry wah-wah guitar (courtesy Adam Levy), and a 3-piece horn section. And on “A Chance In Hell” Hicks skillfully channels Mose Allison—speaking of jazz ivories—with understated aplomb, right down to the offhand vocal style.
All in all, a delightful effort, one which pays multiple dividends upon multiple spins. More, please.
DOWNLOAD: “I Was Made Anew,” “Interested Party”