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Posted: 9:20 a.m. Monday, June 9, 2014

Nikki Lane strikes a rising-star chord at Stubb's 


Nikki Lane
Peter Blackstock
Nikki Lane and band perform at Stubb's, Sunday, June 8, 2014.

By Peter Blackstock

Lots of the pieces have fallen into place for Nikki Lane, a young Nashville indie-country artist whose first tour as a headliner took her to the indoor stage at Stubb’s on Sunday night. With a new album produced by red hot Black Keys leader Dan Auerbach and a terrific five-piece band supporting her on the road, Lane seems poised to break out in a big way.

Playing most of the tracks from her New West Records disc “All or Nothin’,” Lane delivered an engaging if not masterful performance that suggested she’s in the learning curve of a gradual ascent, rather than riding a skyrocket to stardom. Though she’s logged a lot of miles as an opening act, including a gig with Spiritualized at the old Emo’s a couple of years ago, her current tour “is my first time playing more than 10 songs,” she noted Sunday.

The transition is still a little rough. After a 13-song set that was well-received by a healthy if not sold-out crowd, Lane departed with some uncertainty as to whether she’d return for an encore. Some of the crowd had left by the time she did come back for a four-song finale that fleshed out the evening nicely, capped by the title track of her new record.

High points of the main set included the slow-burning “Want My Heart Back,” which Lane described as a song about someone she used to love “but now I hate his guts”; the similarly themed “Lies” from her 2011 debut album “Walk of Shame”; and a couple of songs played solo acoustic, most notably a cover called “God Made Fools” with the pointed chorus lyric, “Those men still make the rules/ A woman’s just a pretty bird in a cage.”

Lane’s left-of-center twist on country twang and brash, often bawdy between-song banter is almost eerily reminiscent of early-career Neko Case — especially given that backing vocalist Erika Wolf serves as the same sort of musical and personal foil for Lane that Kelly Hogan does in Case’s band. Still, there are differences: Lane’s music is slightly less focused on her voice, drawing more from the spaghetti-western sound of her ensemble, which provided brilliant backing throughout.

Opener Max Gomez, Lane’s labelmate on New West, impressed with a short set focused on songs from his 2013 debut “Rule the World.” Congenial in conversation with the crowd, he told a memorable story about seeing a young child in a suit at a wedding reception as the lead-in for a stirring cover of the late John Hartford’s “In Tall Buildings.”

Peter Blackstock

About Peter Blackstock

Peter Blackstock is a music writer for the Austin American-Statesman. A UT grad who grew up in Austin, he worked at the Statesman in high school and college before moving to Seattle and co-founding the alt-country magazine No Depression in the '90s.

Send Peter Blackstock an email.

 
 

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