If you can imagine a jaded two-piece jug band, you have some idea of Dan Hicks' show at Desperado's last night. Hicks, accompanied by a lone guitarist, offered a set of folk blues, jazz and swing, all rendered with an air of modern decadence thanks to Hicks' droll humor and whimsical vocals. His voice wandered from a mumbling slur to a sleepy-eyed drawl, some scat singing and a warbling falsetto. If there was a touch of cynicism to Hicks' approach, there was also considerable musical precision in his jazzy guitar stylings and imaginative singing. It was low-keyed, even offhand entertainment, for sure, but appealing to anyone with a taste for a somewhat sardonic approach to this generally cheerful music.
Opening was Cowboy Jazz, a six-piece band from Baltimore. Working within the western jazz genre, the three women who fronted the band knocked the crowd dead with plenty of swinging vocal interplay and comic asides, suggesting a sexy blend of Bob Wills and the Andrews Sisters. While Kate Bennett handled most of the vocals with her warm, sultry voice, Denise Carlson's tough-rocking delivery of "Rockabye Baby" was a welcome relief from the band's generally cool delivery. Her scintillating fiddle work provided the evening's instrumental highlights, even stealing pedal steel player Barry Sless' thunder on "Steel Guitar Rag."