Tag Archives: Nikki Lane

Album Review: Wheeler Walker Jr.–Ol’ Wheeler

Rating: 7/10

**Language**

All right, I’m rising to another challenge this week, attempting to review Wheeler Walker Jr. So, for anyone possibly living under a rock who might otherwise be shocked by the content here, Wheeler is a character personified by comedian Ben Hoffman who rose to prominence rather quickly last year by releasing foul-mouthed, sexually explicit, and generally vulgar country songs, all while simultaneously creating a persona surrounding him of bashing Nashville and the current state of pop country. So for the easily offended and/or faint of heart, I don’t recommend reading on–he’s not for everyone. For all those out there who can take a joke, enjoy stuff like say, Rodney Carrington, and/or just like some really well-done, straight-up traditional country instrumentation, please read on. But you’ve been informed, so now I’m going to treat Wheeler like a real artist because that’s how this music is presented, and that’s part of its genius.
The glaring problem with Wheeler’s debut album, Redneck Shit, was that it was funny and provided quite a lot of shock value, but it didn’t really hold up. Some of it was vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, and Wheeler has definitely improved on that front. You still have plenty of examples of this on the new record; “Pussy King” was a fun single for a couple minutes, but it didn’t stay with me either, and it also went in a more bluesy direction which I don’t think suits Wheeler’s style. But then you have moments like “Summers in Kentucky,” which seems to be quite a serious song about Wheeler being out on the road and thinking about an ex from his past–she’s now married with kids, but he says that if she wants to leave her husband, she can come on tour with him. They’ve both “aged like shit,” and he’d trade all the young girls to have her “flabby ass” back. It’s songs like this, where the vulgarity comes out at unexpected moments to make serious songs funny, and yes, also to add something to the song, that make wheeler stand out as more than a comedy act and rather a country artist, which is what Wheeler’s character is going for. There’s also “Fuckin’ Around,” which is your classic country cheating song with a twist–Wheeler has been fucking around on his wife, Kacey, while on the road, but she has been doing the same back home, and now they’re both confessing their various misdeeds. Kacey’s part is sung by Nikki Lane, and she was a fantastic choice for this role. You also have a nice moment in “Drunk sluts,” where Wheeler laments his bad luck in love and that these types of girls are all he can seem to find. “Small Town Saturday Night” stands out too because it could be any mainstream party song–except for its traditional instrumentation and the fact that the characters are high on paint and propositioning a married woman while her husband “drain(s) his dick” in the bathroom–“drinking and smoking and looking for something to fuck.” The point is, instead of coming off as songs that were written for the sole purpose of being as vulgar as possible, a good portion of this record comes off as serious, if especially crass, country, and that makes it, for me, an improvement for Wheeler.
I mentioned the instrumentation, and except for “Pussy King,” which as I mentioned has a more bluesy slant, this is straight-up traditional country. Even if it’s not funny, or the humor wears off, it’s more country than 90% of the stuff being marketed as such, and Dave Cobb did a tremendous job with it. Wheeler also calls out Nashville in the closer, “Poon,” which backs up the things he says all over social media and in podcasts. It won’t be for everyone obviously, but it’s comedy, and damn it, it’s funny, and there’s wit in these songs and in Wheeler’s writing. And on top of that, it’s country. Credit to Wheeler walker Jr. for delivering us something different and unique, and even more than that, for being able to do it differently, and much better, a second time.

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Album Review: Nikki Lane–Highway Queen

Rating: 8/10

For those unfamiliar with Nikki Lane, Highway queen is her third studio album. I will admit to having checked out lane before, but not really being impressed by either of her two previous records. This was mainly due to production, and Nikki apparently wasn’t sold on it either. She has stated that for this album, she wanted a producer who wouldn’t overshadow her and who would bring out the best in her. So her boyfriend, Americana artist Jonathan Tyler, helped produce this record, and what we get is a great showcase of Nikki lane and her talent.

The album opens with the catchy, upbeat “700,000 Rednecks,” a lighthearted song about all the hardships of being a musician, and all the things “it takes to get to the top.” I am very careful about designating something outlaw country–in fact, I am not sure I have ever labeled anything I have reviewed here as such–but that’s what comes to mind with this song and throughout much of the record. A few tracks lean more toward Americana, but mostly I would call it outlaw country. “Highway queen” is a fun, upbeat track that seems to be a personal anthem for Nikki. The woman in the song lives on the road and travels alone; “the highway queen don’t need no king.” “Lay You down” is another upbeat track about a woman watching her man leave her and asking who will be there for him when he dies alone. The instrumentation, which is the strongest point of the record, is catchy, but it doesn’t really go with the lyrics, and for me, this is one of the weaker tracks.

“Jackpot” is a highlight of the album; this is a fun love song comparing true love to finally hitting the jackpot in Vegas after putting in so many quarters that came up short. If you pick one Nikki Lane song to listen to, make it this one. “Companion” is a more serious love ballad, and once again, for me it is a weaker track. Lane’s voice and style just don’t work as much on these types of songs as they do on the more rocking, upbeat, fun tracks. “Big Mouth” is one of those; it’s literally a song about telling someone to shut the hell up and stay out of her business. Think Kacey Musgraves lyrics but with Miranda Lambert attitude. “Foolish Heart” is another more serious song, this time about finally finding love but fearing losing it all again. This one is better than the previous serious tracks. “Send the Sun” is the type of love song Nikki Lane excels at; much like “Jackpot,” it is more lighthearted. It’s about long-distance love; while they miss each other at night, they promise to “send the sun your way, wake you up with a dawn full of golden rays.” Even though the miles separate them, they can’t imagine being with anyone else.

I have listened to “Muddy Waters” several times, and honestly I have no idea what it’s trying to convey. It’s a pleasant song musically and lyrically, but it seems underdeveloped somehow. Lane repeats, “I don’t believe ’cause I don’t wanna believe” but it’s pretty unclear what she’s referring to. Maybe someone more intelligent than me can figure it out. The album ends with the excellent “Forever Lasts Forever,” and for the first time on the record, Nikki really nails a serious song. This one is about divorce. The lyrics in this song really paint a great picture; “we swore for better or worse, and it was better at first, and worse at the end. They say forever lasts forever till forever becomes never again.” Lane also brings out the emotion in this song well, and it closes the album on a high note.

This is the best place to start with Nikki Lane’s music. The instrumentation is definitely the high point of the record. Lyrically, some of the serious songs don’t connect with me as much, but Lane proves she can deliver them well with “Forever Lasts Forever.” The highlights are the more fun tracks like “Jackpot,” “Highway queen,” and “700,000 Rednecks.” This is a really unique style like that of outlaw country, and Nikki’s unique voice works well with it. I”d definitely recommend getting to know this album and Nikki Lane.

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