Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Send the Sun" on Sunday: Nikki Lane at the Majestic Theatre

Contemporary country singers, somewhat similar to jazz musicians, have to work extra hard to prove the vitality of their respective stereotype-laden styles. Country doesn't use synthesizers or glide at 130 beats per minute, it doesn't use strange, spacey pedals on their electric guitars and the bass is not some brooding, ambient drone. It isn't the first thing the indie-rockers, the garage-blues bruisers or the electronica dancers think they're going to reach for... 

But an artist like Nikki Lane, who's coming here to Detroit, is substantially revitalizing the warbly, twangy, stompy signatures of country, with lots of rock n roll energy, soulful vocals, and heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics. She has a voice that is powerful enough in timbre and intonation, that it could soar alone on just an acoustic guitar, but The Tennessee Dirtbags back her up with guitars, pedal-steel, and energizing rhythms. 

She toys with conventions and then turns them on their heads. She opens up her 2017 release Highway Queen with a haunting and alluring "Yippy-Kai-Ay.....!" The band kicks into a riffy, strutting song where Lane isn't shy about an honest portrait of her hometown. The title track opens up with the woozy pedal steel whirl that we're used to an Americana and roots music, but her vocal style, again, strays from the ballady kinds of country songs you're used to and instead has the verve and attitude of a percussive R&B cadence. The album, overall, is a fully arced summit of emotions, from heartbreak to empowerment. 

Check out this song, one of my favorites from the album, that effectively shows her sensibilities for balancing wistfulness, comfort, and resolve... Country tunes, especially this one, often restore a bit of joy to a weary soul. That, alone, should prove the genre's charms.

Nikki Lane is performing tomorrow night (Sunday) at the Majestic Theatre with Lukas Nelson
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