Sunday, August 3, 2014

It's All Or Nothin' For Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane
All Or Nothin'
New West Records
Produced by Dan Auerbach
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

During the past couple of years we have been treated to some extremely talented young Female Country Singer/Songwriters that reassure us that Country music is definitely going to be in good hands for many years to come.

Add to that list Nikki Lane, who with an unlikely assist from Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) has produced a gem of an album.

Lane opened for Wynonna Judd & The Big Noise last weekend in Los Angeles at KCRW Radio's Country in The City.  It was as if, symbolically, the torch for Female Country Artists was being passed from one generation to the next.

On All or Nothin', Lane's second full-length and debut for New West Records,  she and an all-star cast of players turn in a spirited recording.  Lane wrote or co-wrote everything on this album, her long-awaited follow up to 2011's Walk of Shame. While she never strays too far from her country roots, there are also voyages here into Rock and Roll, Surf, 60's Girl Groups and Americana.

Lane recorded the album at Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound, the Nashville studio famous for it's use of vintage gear and interesting use of space (two of the studio's bathrooms also are used as echo chambers for recording).

The singer met Auerbach in Nashville at her vintage clothing store,  High Class Hillbilly, and discovered they both had a lot musically in common.  Then last year, Auerbach and Lane teamed up to cover Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton's  "Just Someone I Used to Know" at a tribute concert for Nashville legend Jack Clement.

While Auerbach's influence is definitely felt on this album in many places, he doesn't allow his style to interfere with Lane's.  This is not a Black Keys Album by any stretch of the imagination.  Her vocal delivery, for instance, in her South Carolina drawl in songs like "Good Man" is unhurried and easily slips in and out and blends between lines.

That song in particular (and to some extent "I Don't Care" and "You Can't Talk to Me Like That" backed by the McCrary Sisters) are similar to girl groups from the 60's like Ronnie Spector and the Rondettes with a definite "Phil Spector Wall of Sound" feel.

Auerbach is her singing partner on "Love's on Fire." Though it begins acoustical and slow, it transforms into an upbeat piece with beautiful fiddle, steel, and brushed snare arrangements. Their voices meld perfectly in and out of the verses and choruses.

My favorite on the album though, possibly because I  grew up close to Surf City (Huntington Beach) and was emerged in the culture in the 1960's, is Lane's "Seeing Double".  The song is driven by surf guitars, reverbed snares, and pedal steel guitars reminiscent of groups like the Surfaris.

"Man Up" and the opening track, "Right Time" are fun  and uptempo numbers fit for line dancing with lines like "It's always the right time to do the wrong thing".  The music on the latter is awash in reverb, pedal steel, a distorted bassline, and funky guitar pickin' straight out of an old Jerry Reed song.

The title track "All or Nothin'" is a funky and bluesy number that could have easily slipped off of a Bonnie Raitt album while Lane gets down right nasty in "Sleep With A Stranger" where the lyrics belies her sweet innocent voice.

This album deserves a listen and should garner attention at awards time.

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