Nikki Lane, Hugh Bob & the Hustle | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Nikki Lane, Hugh Bob & the Hustle Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Fri., June 13, 10 p.m. 2014

When he puts on his producer hat, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys has a tendency to ball up all sorts of American roots music into a soulful but homogenized sound. His clients need to be strong, distinctive talents to stand up to that treatment—lesser voices can end up molded into something they’re not, as Jessica Lea Mayfield proved when she swamped her first album without Auerbach, this year’s Make My Head Sing, in doomy electric guitars. Nashville singer Nikki Lane, who worked with Auerbach for her terrific second album, All or Nothin’ (New West), belongs to the first group: her easygoing demeanor and sweet twang leave an unmistakable mark on everything she sings, including her 2011 debut, Walk of Shame, which Auerbach had nothing to do with. Lane’s tough, honeyed voice gets a simpatico soul-pop sheen from Bobby Emmett’s warm organ swells, Russ Paul’s woozy pedal steel, and Kenny Vaughan’s biting lead guitar—the arrangements tie together honky-tonk, surf rock, and Bobby “Blue” Bland-style blues, but Lane commands center stage with her singing, delivering lively variations on familiar tales of heartbreak and cheating. The ballad “Love’s on Fire,” where Lane duets with Auerbach, uses “burning love” in the sense of “burning down,” as a lover who’s always away sends a romance down in flames. (It also uses a melody that sounds very similar to the opening of the bluegrass standard “Rocky Top,” and that’s not the only borderline theft—the first lick of the title tune had me convinced, if only for a moment, that I was actually listening to a cover of Eric Clapton’s dreadful “Cocaine.”) On “Man Up” Lane delivers an ultimatum to a lousy boyfriend who’s about to lose her, and on “Sleep With a Stranger” (“You can call me anything you want to / Just don’t call me after tonight”) and “Right Time” (“It’s always the right time to do the wrong thing”) she demonstrates that her threats to get what she wants elsewhere are anything but hollow. —Peter Margasak

Price: $13, $11 in advance

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