"Half of what I know about being in a rock 'n' roll band is stuff I learned from Johnny Hickman. The other half's just bad habits...and he taught me those too. Check out "Palmhenge". It's all you need to know."
— Adam Duritz, Counting Crows
"I've been a fan of Johnny Hickman's songwriting since MR. WRONG on the first Cracker album. Listening to his great debut only confirms what I have long suspected. Johnny is a fine frontman and stellar songwriter as well as great guitarist. Glad to finally have this album and look forward to seeing him deliver it live."
— Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers
"Authentic, soulful rock & roll songwriting"
— Roger Clyne, Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers
Just recently met Johnny for the first time. We did a show with Cracker. Instantly, I realized that Johnny's one of those guys, that everything he does, is just a pleasure to be around. His singing, his guitar playing, His general demeanor, you name it. It comes as no surprise, that this album is such a pleasure to be around. Great singing, great guitar playing, great songwriting. What's not to like? It's Johnny Hickman Dammit! Go Johnny, GO!!!
— Brian Henneman, Bottle Rockets
In 1992, Johnny Hickman rescued David Lowery from artsy irony by abetting his escape from Camper Van Beethoven. But as Lowery's co-writer and -leader in Cracker, Hickman found Lowery's snarkiness contagious. So on this solo debut he stages his own escape, into what singer-songwriting is for. Felt and straightforward as Cracker never was, Palmhenge has a glum outlook — the title imagines California as a lost civilization, evoked by the first two tracks from an in-my-room and then a sociohistorical perspective — and rolls out too many Cracker-style big rock licks and beats. But it sounds compassionate when it says it's compassionate, it sounds loving when it says it's loving, and it sounds cynical when it says it's cynical. And that's such a relief.
Johnny Hickman often is labeled the "other guy" in Cracker, but Palmhenge should put to rest the notion that he's simply David Lowery's sideman. Wildly diverse - from the arena rock of "Harvest Queen" to the Bakersfield country of "Friends" to the splendid folk rock of "Little Tom" and "The San Bernardino Boy" - it blends those genres with a dash of alt-rock to create a surprisingly coherent whole.
The ethereal opening track "Prerequiem" seamlessly sets the stage for the album's finest cut, "The Great Decline", a reflection on what Hickman sees as an ill-fated state of affairs in Southern California. Lyrically, much of Palmhenge maintains a similar focus. "Hacker Boy" and the anti-Bush sentiments of "Southern Cal" are acutely topical, but the rest are more timeless.
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Johnny Hickman, Palmhenge (Campstove)
Cracker fans have been tuned into guitarist Johnny Hickman's songwriting abilities since "Another Song About The Rain", one of the finer moments on the group's 1992 eponymous debut. With each successive album, Hickman has written a song or two on his own for the band while co-writing many of its radio hits, but because he has served as The Edge to David Lowery's Bono it is only now, with his solo debut album, Palmhenge, that the world can truly hear the scope of his talent. The roaring, guitar driven re-development criticism "The Great Decline" ("They're putting up a superstore where the local merchant tried") is poignant, but the heartfelt, haunting "Little Tom" may be Hickman's most effective song ever. The guy does emotive pop "Lucky", observant, banjo-plucked country "Southern Cal", back porch country blues "The San Bernadino Boy" and magical, Grateful Dead-inspired balladry "Beauregarde's Retreat" that all qualifies as 'Americana' and all ranks as extremely good.
FMQB (Radio Trade Publication)
Johnny Hickman's claim to fame has been his stint as childhood friend David Lowery's foil in the description-defying band Cracker, but before adding Blues and Country elements to Grunge with that band, Hickman spent a good amount of time touring as a solo acoustic performer. Hickman brings a lot of the experience he developed in that setting to his solo album, Palmhenge. While he doesn't eschew the electric entirely, most of the tracks are layered with texture and the acoustic guitar is at the root of the arrangements. The lyrics are thoughtful and not only tell stories, but deliver messages, as well. FMQB had a hard time picking tracks, but recommends checking out "Little Tom," "Lucky," the electric-guitar driven "Harvest Queen," and the story of a kid who is good with computers, "Hacker Boy." WVIA is already playing a few tracks from this gem.
Solo offering from Cracker’s guitar genius. Johnny Hickman is probably best known for being the Les Paul brandishing guitar hero in the superb and criminally under rated Cracker. Although he has contributed some of the band’s best loved and most accomplished tunes over the years, (‘Lonesome Johnny Blues’, ‘Trials & Tribulations’ to name but two!) Hickman’s song writing has, in most people’s eyes, always played second fiddle to band mate David Lowery’s. With the Camper reunion in full swing, Hickman has used his down time from Cracker to record this solo offering and step out from the song writing shadows. ‘Palmhenge’ seems to have been inspired by Hickman’s despondency with modern day America and is more overtly political and sonically subtle than anything he has recorded as part of Cracker. The album opens with, ‘Prerequiem (Palmhenge I) which is a short and simple lament to California. The mood of lamentation is then continued with the blistering ‘The Great Decline (Palmhenge II)’ which manages to be both despairing for the future and nostalgic for the past at the same time. Although this track acts as a fantastic statement of intent, Hickman utilises many different musical genres across the rest of the album to get his message across. ‘Little Tom’ has an Appalachian feel and is one of the highlights of the record. The lyrics of the song deal with the story of a disaffected and under privileged youth, who grows up in institutions before eventually being pushed into the army. The melody and vocal delivery are as sombre as the subject matter demands. ‘Southern Cal’ is another highlight, boasting a feel on the verses that is very reminiscent of ‘The Weight’ by The Band. On the lyrically lighter side of things, ‘Hacker Boy’ (music piracy) and ‘Friends’ (take a guess!) both manage to prevent the album from becoming too dark, while at the same time, being excellent songs themselves. ‘Palmhenge’ is the sound of a song writer stretching his creativity and being inspired by modern events, and works exceptionally well on its own terms. All there is really left to say is here’s to many more Johnny Hickman solo records and let’s hope he finds time to visit these shores to promote ‘Palmhenge’. www.johnnyhickman.com