Nikki Lane is one of Americana’s most talented artists. Like the genre itself, Nikki Lane represents a unique and cool sound that mixes influences from multiple genres of music. There is a real attitude and energy to her music that really elevates her sound. Lane who was born in Greenville South Carolina dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles when she was 23 then New York City before ultimately settling in Nashville. She has recorded 3 albums including her newest work Highway Queen which was released February 17th.
Highlights: Lane’s 3rd album starts off with the energetic “700,000 Rednecks.” She describes how difficult it can be to get to the top in the musical profession. It is long hours, lots of traveling and the pay is not very good. With knowing all this however, she states that nobody is going to make her stop chasing this dream. The album takes a sad turn with the song “Lay You Down” which exhibits some of the best song writing on the album. There are two lovers in the story one of which (the man) is on his deathbed. He knows that he is going to die soon but he doesn’t fear it even though the women is in tears. When he dies many people in the town who are strangers to the women show up to the funeral to pay their respects. Probably my favorite song on the album is the uptempo “Jackpot.” The women in this song was going through a horrible rough patch. Nothing was going her way and she was tired of singing the blues. Then she met her soulmate which is when she hit the “jackpot.” The two of them run away together where life is much better now that they have each other. The final song on the album “Forever Lasts Forever” is the most poetic song on Highway Queen. There was a time that she was married and now she is not. “The only ring left on my finger is a lighter shade of skin/ Untouched by sun/ The only physical reminder in this empty house of him.” The only thing left of this failed marriage is the different shade of skin from her wedding ring and the empty house that she finds herself in. People will talk about them and say that they didn’t try to make the marriage work but, they don’t really understand. Also great steel guitar play on this song as well.
Other Notable Songs: “Foolish Heart” is a song that I had to do a little bit of inference on to determine what I thought was the meaning. The women is angry at her heart for making her feel the way that she does. It makes her feel like she can’t be alone because she’s hanging on by a word. My thought is that this word is love and that she feels trapped by this concept. The albums title track has the theme we see in a number of songs on the album about being on the road and away from loved ones. You would think that this song and this theme is a bit of an autobiography for Lane. She lives the life of a highway queen going place to place to play her music but she never stays beyond her set which always brings the people down.
Final Thoughts/Grade: I haven’t reviewed too many Americana albums this year yet. The only true ones being Duende and Highway Queen. I think this is a really good album without any filler songs out of the 10. My favorite songs on the album would have to be “Jackpot,” “Forever Lasts Forever,” and “Lay You Down.” The album comes across as very personal and unique to Nikki Lane. B