And here we have Chris Hickey, who strips himself even further down than Kim Taylor, previously, recording in his South Pasadena home with just an acoustic guitar and a handheld digital voice recorder (an Edirol R-09, if there are any gearheads out there). And this is probably the biggest high-wire act of all in popular music—having enough faith and guts and (let’s not forget) talent to hide behind absolutely nothing. It’s just your voice and just your fingers.
I first heard Hickey’s music when he sent word out last year about his album Razzmatazz, which was his first solo bedroom recording, a sort of re-emergence for a musician with a long, workman-like history but no breakthrough moments, commercially. He had had a go at new wave era punk-pop in the late ’70s, with his L.A.-based band the Spoilers, and also at mainstream neo-folk music in the mid-’80s, when he put out two CDs under his own name, before moving into other folk-like band projects and doing studio work with the likes of Michael Penn and the Indigo Girls. What Hickey has that is immediately apparent, and relatively rare on the present-day indie scene, is gravitas. Not tree-trunk heavy, mothball-laden severity, but a deep, engaged presence; Hickey’s voice in fact has something of the warn, trembly huskiness of the late Warren Zevon. It’s a voice one pays heed to, particularly when used in the service of such a delicate tune, such a piercing message.
“Beautiful Struggle” was written by Mark Addison of the briefly together, semi-legendary band the Borrowers, and appeared originally on their one and only CD, in 1996. MP3 via Hickey.