Maverick Magazine on “The Best of Times”

By Arthur Wood, Maverick Magazine UK
Yet another Sara Hickman musical project that thoroughly deserves your support

THE BEST OF TIMES is a double disc set that collates thirty-eight of Sara Hickman’s thought provoking compositions and co-writes dating from her 1989 solo debut EQUAL SCARY PEOPLE through the extended version of this adopted Austinite’s 2010 release ABSENCE OF BLAME — and I would hazard to add, ‘and then some.’ Commencing in May last year, Sara Hickman began her reign as Official State Musician of Texas. Raised in a family environment where she was actively encouraged to explore the arts — painting, writing, dance, music and more — Sara Hickman resolved that during her Texas State tenure she would commit to a project for ‘the better good.’ With all of the latter in mind Hickman chose as her focus, Theatre Action Project. Part of that decision was determined by Texas Governor Rick Perry’s proposal to cut funding of the arts particularly in schools.

TAP was founded in 1997 as a Master’s Thesis project in the University of Texas at Austin’s Drama and Theatre for Youth Program. These days TAP’s artists and educators work with Central Texas schools and communities on arts programs for young people. Having assisted 530 students in its first year, during 2009 TAP assisted some 16,000. With the release of THE BEST OF TIMES, Sara aims to raise $0.25M to assist this tax exempt organization invest in the state’s future.

Now for the contents of the discs—the first thing that has to be acknowledged about THE BEST OF TIMES is the rich diversity of the Austin music community who answered Sara’s call for a contribution. Based on a comment posted on her web site, what truly charmed the songwriter was the fact that the interpretations she received were not only top drawer, they ran the gamut of numerous (musical) genres and often turned her own take of the song on its head. Willie Nelson, Sara’s predecessor as Official State Musician of Texas, launches Disc 1 with a beautiful rendition of the ballad Simply which opened EQUAL SCARY PEOPLE. Sara’s acoustic guitar carries the melody on the latter selection. As for my opening paragraph comment: ‘and then some,’ what makes THE BEST OF TIME doubly essential is that it contains a handful of songs that Sara has yet to record/release. The latter includes the Colin Boyd collaboration It’s In The Water, a song they penned for the 1997 independent (Texas made) movie of the same name.

Hickman’s career-changing collection NECESSARY ANGELS (1994), by far, furnishes the largest number of THE BEST OF TIMES songs, a total of seven, including this (tribute) collection’s title song performed by Trish Murphy and Charlie Sexton. Other Disc 1 contributors include Marcia Ball (Strong Woman), Robert Earl Keen (Under The Sycamore Tree) and up and coming Austin teen band After Math (Larger Than Life). A reformed Edie Brickell and New Bohemians (Shadowboxing) open Disc 2 and it also features contributions from Jimmy LaFave (Standing Ground), the Flatlanders (Comfort’s Sigh), Darden Smith (No Name For Love) and Shawn Colvin (Time Will Tell).

It’s rather appropriate that Disc 2 closed with another rendition of Simply, in this instance performed by Denton, Texas based Brave Combo. Appropriate? Combo founder Carl Finch produced EQUAL SCARY PEOPLE. Now that’s what I call squaring the circle!

From Maverick Magazine UK, Issue 106.

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