Home Live Review Live Review: Nikki Lane w/ Drayton Farley @ Black Cat — 12/1/22

Live Review: Nikki Lane w/ Drayton Farley @ Black Cat — 12/1/22

Live Review: Nikki Lane w/ Drayton Farley @ Black Cat — 12/1/22

Nikki Lane (Photo by Jody Domingue)

Nikki Lane is a wild woman. At the Black Cat Thursday, she told the audience how she recently crowdsurfed at a Viagra Boys show, and she teasing do it again that night. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t quite thick enough to make it work, so we missed out — but the show was dynamite even without the stunt.

Lane doesn’t need any stunts to put on a great show. With her voice, intensity, and attitude, she delivers a hip, modern take on country music. She’s been classified as Americana, but what she really is is a modern-day outlaw, one of several women — others include Margo Price, Jaime Wyatt, and Shannon McNally — who have seized that tradition and made it their own.

Lane’s brand of outlaw country has a lot of rock in it, especially in her latest album, the recently released Denim & Diamonds. Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age produced the album, with his band playing on it. Their presence makes for Lane’s heaviest, most rock-oriented work but without backing off on the twang.

The outlaw influence is clear in Lane’s music, but, like the other artists I’ve mentioned, she puts a distinctively female spin on it. Lucinda Williams, whose work has been definitional for a whole generation of female singer-songwriters , also influenced her. If her attitude is part Waylon Jennings, it’s at least as much, if not more, Lucinda’s toughness, intelligence, and bawdiness. Lane paid tribute to her with a cover of “Drunken Angel,” an ode to the late musician Blaze Foley. Other covers in the set included the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ In the Dark/Big Mouth” and Mickey Newbury’s “Why You Been Gone So Long.”

With songs like “You Can’t Talk To Me Like That,” Lane gives off the sense she’s not be messed with. She’s not afraid to sing about drugs, as she does in “First High,” though she said she doesn’t do hard drugs, like cocaine, at least not any more. But, like Lucinda, there’s a tenderness and a sincerity to go along with the sharp elbows. “Good Enough” was written about her grandparents, who were together for 65 years.

Watch the official music video for “First High” by Nikki Lane on YouTube:

The set opened with a few songs from her last album, 2017’s Highway Queen: the title cut and “700,000 Rednecks.” Later in the show, she spoke about her attitude to the South. Growing up in South Carolina, she wanted to get away. But when the Covid pandemic struck, and she was living in New York, all she wanted to do was go home and be near her loved ones.

The set included many of the songs from the new album, including the title cut, the aforementioned “First High” and “Good Enough,” “Try Harder,” “Black Widow,” and “Pass It Down.” There were plenty of old favorites, too: “Send The Sun,” “All or Nothin’,” “Right Time,” “Faded,” and “Jackpot,” which closed the set.

Drayton Farley, a singer-songwriter from a small town outside Birmingham, Alabama, opened the show with a solo acoustic set. It was his first time in DC. Farley’s vocals bear a distinct resemblance to his fellow Alabamian Jason Isbell. Coincidentally, Sadler Vaden, the guitarist in Isbell’s band, The 400 Unit, produced his upcoming first studio album, and the rest of the 400 Unit played on it. Farley made the album last summer and it comes out next year. He played “Stop The Clock” from the new record.

Watch Drayton Farley perform “Stop The Clock” live for radiowv on YouTube:

Farley’s songs, like “Blue Collar,” come from a distinctly working-class perspective. He wrote “American Dream (Hard Up)” in 2019, while he was working on an assembly line. His set also included “Lucinda,” “The Reaper,” “Sweet Southern Sadness,” and “Pitchin’ Fits.” The crowd was a bit rowdy when he started his set, but he won them over and, by the end of his set, they were paying close attention to his songs.

The Black Cat has a really nice atmosphere, and it’s a fun place to take in a show. We’re lucky to have some great, locally owned venues here in DC, and they have a lot of character and charm; the staff are unique and interesting characters, and there’s a very strange, but endearing display of dolls behind the bar. As a person with a disability, I also appreciate there are some places where you can sit.

This was my second time seeing Lane, but it’s been quite a while — four or five years. That last show was electric, and this one was just as good. Catch her sooner again than I did!


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