26 September 2023

Denim & Diamonds

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Nikki Lane, New West Records 2022.

Nikki Lane is an American singer/songwriter who is best known as a country performer however, on this album she’s headed off in a pop/rock direction and to my ears she’s all the better for it.

She recently came to my attention for her excellent duet with Lana Del Rey in Breaking Up Slowly, and Lana mentioned her on her 2021 album Blue Bannisters.

Nikki Lane and Lana Del Rey were apparently going to release an album of American standards and classics on Christmas day in 2020 but nothing has so far appeared.

Although Nikki has decided to dabble in pop/rock she hasn’t entirely abandoned county on this album.

Peddle steel guitar features prominently on a number of tracks and there is still the hallmarks of great country storytelling in many songs.

Tracks like Good Enough are classic country but they are the exceptions on this very good album.

The thing that stands out on this 12-track record is the openness and honesty of the writing.

She writes about the mistakes made, pitfalls stumbled into, and the lessons learned on her journey through life.

From the first track, First High, the driving guitars suggest that we’re exploring some new territory.

It’s a track about searching for, or trying to recreate, the feelings of those first highs of love and life.

It’s mostly a fruitless exercise but many of us feel compelled to search for the impossible.

Black Widow is a stand out track about the temptation of bad girls. You’d be best advised to avoid them but you don’t.

The track is heightened by the zeal of the Pentecostal chants and handclaps.

Nikki Lane’s song writing is compelling and there’s a toughness to it that comes from being “a big hearted girl in a man’s world” as she sings in the excellent fourth cut, Born Tough.

Denim & Diamonds is the first album I’ve heard from Nikki Lane but I’m sure that it won’t be the last.

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