I don’t write many full length album reviews. There are just too many others that do, who I believe can do a better job at it than me. In addition, as I’ve aged I’ve got harder to please (or the overall quality of music in general has diminished). Truth be known, it’s probably a little of both.
The first time that I listened to Nikki Lane’s All or Nothin’, I didn’t have a bio sheet, liner notes, and hadn’t read anything about it. Three things really stood out for me on that initial listening experience. The first was Lane’s voice, she’s from South Carolina, her vocals definitely have a sassy, southern flavor. Next was the pedal steel guitar that is layered in the background throughout the LP (it’s awesome btw). When the album had played all the way through, I said to myself “Wow, that’s a well produced record”.
I immediately went searching to find out who the producer was, and it was none other than Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys). Not only does he produce the thing, but plays on it as well (and just for the record, this sounds nothing like The Black Keys). There are many different sounds on the recording, but they are all tied together with a vintage texture where the songs fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Teaming up with Auerbach was a great move for Lane. It’s a match made in heaven for music listeners like myself (and I bet many of you).
I have read a few reviews where the writers called the album Country. As my buddy W.v. Hill would say “Ill bite, but with a loose lip”. If this is Country, it’s Country that lives in an alternate world on the left-hand side of the radio dial where it shares the airwaves with: The Cowboy Junkies, Joe Doe, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams, Neko Case…etc.
The album is really strong from start to finish. Lane has a gift for storytelling, and many of these tunes sound like they come from personal experience. The opening track finds Nikki singing “It always the right time to do the wrong thing”. Later she slows things down as the Hammond B-3 Organ leads into “You can’t talk to me like that”. “Seein’ Double” and “Sleep with a stranger” are rockin’ little numbers, while “I don’t care” has echoes of the pop girl groups from the 60’s.
With each repeated listen, I hear things buried in the songs that I missed the first time around. Like the awesome guitar licks (the guitar players are really good, but seem to understand that it’s just as important to know when not to play as it is to know when to) which never get in the way of the songs.
In a fair world, Lane’s All or Nothin’ (which is her second album and debut for New West) would receive airplay on Alternative, Americana, Country, Pop, and Rock radio. For those listeners who mainly listen to mainstream music but have been considering looking for something a little different, this one would be a great recording to start your exploring.
It’s safe to say that I think it’s the best release (as an overall record from start to finish) of 2014 (so far).
Sample and/or purchase the album: NIKKI LANE : All Or Nothin’