On the back cover of Sara Hickman's new CD, a quote from a recent music review reads: "Sara Hickman should stand alongside Tracy Chapman, Michelle Shocked, k.d. lang and Jane Siberry." Add to that list, Billy Bragg, Lyle Lovett, Peter Himmelman, Shawn Colvin and L7. It's an odd assortment; but the truth is that Sara Hickman is all of them. And none of them.
Use those comparisons as a rough guide if you are not familiar. Their collective similarities include the ability to transform any stage from an ordinary venue to an intimate setting, and to tell stories wrought with humor and social commentary, then turn them into music, drawing us in with just a guitar and a voice.
And Sara Hickman does that well. After all, there's a reason she's had a loyal fan base and following for the past 11 years.
But Hickman is also very much her own individual, doing it her way, distincly and uniquely. In 1994 for example, standing her ground against Elektra records, the label she was originally signed to, and with the help of fans, friends and family, Hickman bought back the rights to her music and her CD titled Necessary Angels. She rebuffed the Taylor Dayne-type image Elektra had planned for her and refused to record music for her CD that was not hers. She has since been on an independent, artist-friendly label called Shanachie and has released three more discs.
That dedication to principles is present not just on a business level, but on a personal level as well. A performer with great social awareness, Hickman is certainly not the first artist with a conscience and a cause, but her dedication is unending and unwavering.
The liner notes of her most recent CD are, in fact, a small booklet devoted to promoting more awareness of the current situation of the homeless in this country. And all proceeds from her 1999 release, Newborn (a CD celebrating passing the art of song to your children) go directly to The Hill Country Youth Ranch, an organization providing shelter for abused children, and the Mautner Project, a non-profit organization helping lesbians with cancer.
Hailing from Texas, Hickman currently spends most of her time, on and off stage, in Austin when not touring. She's one of those singer-songwriters who is as comfortable playing to a Kennedy Center tuxedo clad crowd, as she is to playing to, say, a Tres Hombres Wrangler and boot crowd.
Hickman often refers to her style of music as mutt music -- a mixture of "everything," but particularly rock, folk, pop and jazz. All of these influences, in fact, can be heard on her latest CD, Spiritual Appliances. The CD is solid and, as always, Hickman's vocals are clear and strong. But as is often the case, while the CD is good, the show is the true gem. She's an artist with contagious enthusiasm who tells a great story and improvises an even better song.