Album of the Week: Nikki Lane, 'Highway Queen'

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Nikki Lane
Nikki Lane - Highway Queen (New West Records)
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Nashville country-music singer-songwriter Nikki Lane is an outlaw — and her new album, Highway Queen, is proof that country artists don't have to fit into the pop-country mold to find success in the music business, but without the support of country-music radio, it means a singer songwriter is likely to go it alone, and give a big middle finger to the conventional rules of the business.

Lane has been compared to rockabilly and country legend Wanda Jackson and labeled by some in the music industry as of The First Lady of Outlaw Country. It's my hope that Nikki Lane embraces the word "outlaw" when it's been used to describe her music. I think it suits her image, her fashion sense (she has her own store in Nashville called High Class Hillbilly), her blend of country and rock, and her feisty lyrics.

What exactly does it mean to be an "outlaw"? That term, in the country music world, originated with artists like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and countless others who broke the stiff rules of the country-music industry by thumbing their noses at the slick country-music production, unapologetically shattering the expectations of a too-conservative Nashville, growing out their hair and blazing the trail for folks like Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson, and even the Drive-by Truckers. Today, more and more women are being recognized as country outlaws, especially with the rise in popularity of artists like Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Nikki Lane and countless others.

Nikki Lane grew up in South Carolina, she lived in Los Angeles and in New York before settling in Nashville. She made her last album, All or Nothin', with producer and Black Keys member Dan Auerbach. This time, for Highway Queen, Lane spent more time in the producer chair, sharing producer credits with boyfriend Jonathan Tyler.

My favorite tracks on Highway Queen include the title track, "Highway Queen"; album opener "700,000 Rednecks"; the single played on The Current, "Jackpot"; and the tear-jerking, heartbreaker of a closing track, "Forever Lasts Forever."

Nikki Lane, Highway Queen, is out now on New West Records.

Resources


Nikki Lane - official site

Nikki Lane, Highway Queen - Amazon

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  • Nikki Lane performs live in The Current studio (2014) "Men seem to only notice when a woman is talking once she starts yelling," Nikki Lane tells Mark Wheat, but she never has to yell at Mark; instead, the two share some great stories and good laughs as Nikki Lane and her band stop by The Current's studio ahead of a show tonight (with Jamestown Revival and Hollow Wood) at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
  • The Current's Guitar Collection: Nikki Lane When Nikki Lane was in The Current's studio for a live session, she played a brand-new, shiny, black guitar. Asked about the instrument, Nikki shares a great story that involves a tour of the guitar factory and a great deal of respect for Johnny Cash.
  • Nikki Lane, joined by Frankie Lee, performs at the State Fair (2014) Singer-songwriter Nikki Lane performed a set at the MPR booth at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, Aug. 23. Frankie Lee joined her on backing vocals and second guitar; both of them spoke to Barb Abney and played in front of a live audience.

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