30 year old Nikki Lane caused a bit of a fuss when she said she wanted to be the next First Lady of outlaw country. Some over-sensitive country fans misinterpreted this as her suggesting that she actually was the next First Lady. “On one of my first interviews, someone asked me who I would like to be and I said I would like to be the first lady of outlaw country” said Lane. “Obviously Jessie Colter—Waylon Jennings’ widow—is the first lady of outlaw country, but I was supposing there’s a new era and I would get to be the next her.” Well, if outlaw country does ever need a new First Lady, Nikki Lane will get my vote.
All or Nothin’, released last year, is Lane’s second album and was produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys who also plays guitar and duets with Lane on Love’s On Fire. Auerbach keeps the music rooted in country traditions but mixes it up with a variety of rock and pop influences, from sixties girl groups through Muscle Shoals soul to indie rock.
Lane sets out her agenda with Right Time. “It’s always the right time” she sings, “to do the wrong thing”. A soaring pedal steel assures us that we are in country territory but slamming drums and pounding bass put us on a far rockier footing. The chorus’s handclaps could come straight from a 70’s glam rock classic. The next song Good Man opens with Be My Baby-style drums, Lane channeling Ronnie Spector rather than Ronnie Milsap. Again, the steel guitar is the only straightforward country element. Third track I Don’t Care wrong foots us yet again with what sounds like the opening chords of The Clash’s London Calling but just when you think you are going to hear that familiar bassline, the song lurches off to an almost Two Tone beat. This is country Jim, but not as we know it.
Title track All Or Nothin’ brings a dirty,funky electric piano and stinging guitar to the mix, a touch of Southern soul. Over the course of 13 tracks Nikki Lane shows that country music has a future, it’s not just music for your Ma and Pa. The deluxe version of the album adds 6 live versions of tracks from the album, showing that Lane and her band can cut it live as well as in the studio. Lane is due to release another album later this year and I can’t wait. All or Nothin’? I’ll take it all.