Nikki Lane’s 2014 album All Or Nothin’ fused country songwriting with Spectoresque Be My Baby drums, glam rock handclaps and Muscle Shoals electric piano.  Tonight, there are no drums, no piano; just Nikki and her Fender acoustic with back up from special guest Jonathan Tyler on guitar and harmonica but Lane’s rock and roll attitude shines through.

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While Lane has yet to make a major impact in the UK, she is playing tonight to a packed out Speakeasy Bar at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms – a nearly-newlywed couple have travelled from Amsterdam just to be here and gasp with self-deprecating teenybop enthusiasm at a brief behind the scenes glimpse of their heroine.

Opening with Good Man, Lane quickly proves that her songs are solid enough to stand on their own, shorn of studio embellishment.  That said, I’d give anything to see her belt this out with her band.  The country soul keening of You Can’t Talk To Me Like That is an early standout leading to the first of Lane’s “shit talking” between-song banter; she tells us that she’s trying to perfect the art of talking shit while playing guitar but hasn’t mastered it yet.  Citing her ex-husband as inspiration, she launches into Man Up which mixes humour and pathos in the classic country tradition.NL2s

Lane and Tyler haven’t been playing together too long.  They arrived in the UK a few days ago and have been faced with the challenges of mastering a stick shift gearbox while driving on the “wrong” side of the road, local geography and place name pronunciation.  Top marks, though, for a near spot-on “Edinburgh” although it slips occasionally to “Edinbourough”.  Tyler is still getting to grips with the intricacies of some of the songs and Lane keeps him on track with off-mic encouragement and the occasional steely glance.  “You wouldn’t want to fuck with her” he jokes to the audience and, joking aside, I suspect he’s not wrong. NL3s

Tonight’s show mixes songs from All Or Nothin’ with a few from her first album Walk Of Shame and a handful from her only-just-finished new album which I’m really looking forward to hearing.  Lane has – for the first time ever, she tells us – written a set list for tonight’s show but she quickly goes off piste and asks for requests from the audience, resulting in the lovely, but apparently rarely played, Coming Home To You.

Lane rounds the show off with Right Time, whose refrain of “It’s always the right time to do the wrong thing” seems to sum up the Nikki Lane ethos, and ends with a singalong version of Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere.  For all her on-stage sass, she is clearly appreciative of her audience and happily makes a bunch of new friends after the show.

Nikki Lane is currently touring the UK and Europe.  If she’s playing near you, go and see her.  It’s always the right time.

John Scott

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