Local Licks 

This week, we review Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, Mike Marshall's Big Trio, Convergence of Robins, and Eoin Harrington.

Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, Tangled Tales. One thing's certain: Dan Hicks has swing, and plenty of swagger. That's what sells this latest release from the famed Bay Area songwriter, twice the subject of a Rolling Stone cover and now living in Mill Valley. But attitude isn't everything; the songs and performances are top-notch, too, in their irreverent, rowdy, even dangerous distillation of real American music. (Surfdog Records)

Mike Marshall's Big Trio, Mike Marshall's Big Trio. They may look like chamber musicians, but more often than not they sound like an old-fashioned, albeit exceptionally skilled, folk trio on mandolin (bandleader Mike Marshall), violin (16-year-old Alex Hargreaves), and double bass (21-year-old Paul Kowert). Bluegrass roots bloom into jazz and classical themes, but the underlying sensibilities prove even prodigies can have fun. (Adventure Music)

Convergence of Robins, Broken Stairs. If you find Xiu Xiu intriguing yet hard to listen to, Oakland artist Nate Toutjian's Convergence of Robins project may be your thing. Toutjian and his backing musicians paint with pleasingly straightforward and challengingly avant-garde strokes inside frames shaped by experimental and minimalist loops. (self-released)

Eoin Harrington, Story. Young, good-looking male singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars and adult contemporary radio-ready singles are still a solid sell in the music industry, but that's not necessarily a good thing for San Francisco's Eoin Harrington. He's talented and fits the bill, yet offers little to distinguish himself from countless other would-be John Mayers and Jack Johnsons. (self-released)


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