I can't quite call Hickey underrated, since he's spent so little time even near the spotlight. Two major label one shots and two solo albums in the '80s aren't quite enough to establish a presence. But I think he is one of the best singer-songwriters I have ever heard. He has a voice that commands attention - not because of some incredible range, but because his voice has a plaintive intensity. It is perfect for his concise sketch-like lyrics that don't tell the whole story, yet give you enough to go on. His music is likewise simple. He knows the secret of the perfect bridge and the ultimate chord change that can lift a song into sublime territory. This album is haunting and beautiful, vulnerable and reassuring.
- Top 20 Recordings of 2003 by Mike Bennett / fufkin.com
On "Kitchen," the standout track of his third solo record, Chris Hickey sings, "If my vision fails when I'm crossing over / I'll use my hands like anyone / Sometimes a nail in my kitchen table rises / I hammer it down like I would in anyone else's kitchen." The musical accompaniment is understated but evocative: palm-muted eighth notes on acoustic guitar, well-placed cello swells, shaker and percussion loops, and the ringing vocal harmonies of Hickey and his former Uma bandmate Sally Dworsky. Like most of the tunes on Release, the quiet but powerful "Kitchen" resonates long after the last note has rung out. Although his wordplay sometimes recalls Dylan, Hickey also has a knack for sharp, melodic tunes that are evocative in spite of their simplicity. Twenty-five years ago, Hickey was a member of the Spoilers, an LA punk/pop band influenced by Johnny Rotten and Bruce Springsteen. He recorded solo records in 1985 and 1987, plus albums with the bands Show of Hands and Uma. Release doesn't betray his hard-rocking roots, but it definitely reveals a talent born of experience and persistence. It makes you want to check out his previous work and, more importantly, look forward to what he'll produce next.
- ACOUSTIC GUITAR / Drew Pearce
Chris Hickey's peripatetic career has found him issuing two excellent and hard-to-find lo-fi solo albums, as well as performing with folk-rock trio, Show of Hands, and the more recent Americana-influenced Uma, over the span of two decades. With Release, he returns to his homegrown roots, crafting minimalist songs with sparse instrumentation. Painterly, imagistic and self-questioning, he writes quiet ruminations on the human condition that are deeply personal, yet with subtly ingratiating hooks. Hickey's songs decline the overblown bombast of today's singing-songwriting blowhards, largely deferring to graceful, folk-style acoustic accompaniment behind his burnished vocals. Cello underpins the contemplative "Kitchen," with close harmonies by Hickey's paramour, Sally Dworsky; should-be hits "Friday Morn'" and "Palisades" belie sparkling pop nuances; '60s-styled psychedelia echoes through "So Many Pieces" and "Wheel." Judicious use of percussion, bass, accordion and keyboards augment songs in an almost subliminal fashion. The 11 tracks here are pithy and immediate, clutter- and fat-free, the antithesis of the CD era's largess. Once the last track, "Walking Away" finishes, you will find yourself drawn back - naturally and effortlessly - to the beginning.
- AMPLIFIER / Larry O. Dean
produced, mixed and mastered by jeff peters at sonora recorders (4,6,8,9,10). produced by chris hickey at home, mixed and mastered by jeff peters at sonora recorders (1,2,3,5,7,11). pro tools engineer and assistant at sonora recorders: seth mclain. contributing musicians: sally dworsky, andy kamman, al wolovitch, andy stoller, mark shark, patrick warren, greg herzenach, jeff peters and david jackson.