Sassy, spunky, defiant and spirited are words commonly associated with Nikki Lane’s new album, All or Nothin’ while spitfire, sultry and firecracker are words more commonly used to describe Nikki herself. I will refrain from using any of them. To this writer they feel, at best, dismissive while, at worst, sexist. Instead, I’ll just open up and say that Nikki has not only avoided the sophomore slump with All Or Nothin’, she dropped a complete beast on our heads. But, seeing as how the album has spent the last 4 week’s at #1 on the Americana Music charts, I don’t think you needed me to tell you that.
It’s been a long time since I got too excited about anything involving The Black Keys so seeing that Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach was producing the album didn’t exactly fill me with hope. That said, back in the day, before The Keys found pop and forgot sludge Auerbach produced a lot of albums that I like a whole lot by artists I respect a great deal such as; The Black Diamond Heavies, Radio Moscow, Patrick Sweeny, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Valerie June and Dr. John. So, it’s not like Auerbach was a poison pill either. It just depended on what he did with it and I went into the album with an open mind.
The album opens with one of it’s strongest tracks (a smart move in my opinion), “Right Time,” and Auerbach’s influence on Nikki’s sound is immediately obvious. He kind of softens her sound a little and adds some pop sensibility to it but stays out of the way otherwise, letting Nikki and Co’s talent drive the album instead of gimmicks. The result is an incredibly catchy album with little metaphor and plenty of confidence.
After hearing me play All Or Nothin’ for the 50 or 60th time at work recently my co-worker was trying to describe Nikki to his wife and asked me what I’d say if I had a single sentence and I said, “a modern version of Loretta.” I’d just tell y’all the All or Nothin’ is Essential Listening.