The current Joint Is Jumping tour confirms Frank Sinatra wasn't the only one who wanted to do it his way. Dan Hicks, Michelle Shocked and Mary Lee's Corvette—the program's three principals, all of whom play their own unique brands of authentic American roots music—are beacons for truly independent voices in an otherwise-polluted landscape of musical conformity.
What makes each one of these artists wonderfully peculiar is how much they defy expectations and get away with it. While at the height of his popularity in the '70s, the droll, low-key Hicks virtually disappeared from the scene for more than a decade. But his vintage western swing/jazz/tin pan alley/country-folk-blues has aged well, with last year's Selected Shorts sounding like some energized concoction created by Leon Redbone on speed.
The equally eclectic Shocked distinguished herself with a trio of striking if hard-to-classify recordings, namely 1988's Short Sharp Shocked, 1989's Captain Swing and 1992's Arkansas Traveler. Known for her spirited feminist-meets-punk attitude, the Texas native simply went a tad crazy last year, releasing three albums on the same day. Each stylistically different, of course. Don't Ask Don't Tell, Mexican Standoff and Got No Strings—also available as a set titled Threesome—feature such Shocked signatures as funky rhythms, emotive vocals, smart wordplay and some very lovely, memorable melodies.
Mary Lee's Corvette, a.k.a. Mary Lee Kortes, is this threesome's youngest performer, but the Michigan-born singer/songwriter is certainly getting with the program. Her notable foray into the irregular includes 2001's Blood on the Tracks: Recorded Live at Arlene Grocery. Yep, Mary Lee and her band mates cover Bob Dylan's classic album song by song. And guess what? Rather than sounding gimmicky, it's a work of resounding heart and soul.
Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks with Michelle Shocked and Mary Lee's Corvette at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583; www.hob.com/anaheim. Wed., 8 p.m. $25-$27.50. All ages; kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
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