Free and legal MP3: Chris Hickey (acoustic, stripped bare)

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.

Chris Hickey

“Beautiful Struggle” – Chris Hickey

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.

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