South Caroline born Nikki Lane aka Nicole Kane Frady started writing country music songs after a breakup with a country musician. Now residing in Nashville, Lane is often marked out as a star on the rise in the world of outlaw country. In 2011 she released her debut album Walk of Shame before signing a deal with New West Records, who released her 2014 album All or Nothin’. Earlier this year Lane released her eagerly awaited third album Highway Queen and she seems to be on the verge of a major breakthrough.
Co-produced with Jonathan Tyler from Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Light, Highway Queen is a collection of 10 tracks that showcase Lane’s love of Americana and traditional country. Opening track 700,000 Rednecks sets the tone and if it’s commercial, radio-friendly country you’re after, Nikki is unlikely to be your cup of tea.
Lane has written, or co-written, every single track on the record and fans of her previous work may be surprised at how much more of a concentrated effort Highway Queen is. Sonically the album is more cohesive than Lane’s last two records and a theme of female empowerment runs through it, particularly on the attitude-laden and feisty title track Highway Queen.
On the uptempo Big Mouth, Lane scolds someone for gossiping about her threatening to show them how her ‘bad reputation’ came to be. The song has a Sheryl Crow edge to it and it leaves you feeling like you wouldn’t want to piss Lane off should you ever meet her. By comparison the reflective Jackpot explores the frustration of feeling like you’re luck isn’t ever going to change but giving in to the attractive proposition that the next try could be the one that transforms your life. It shows a more vulnerable side of the singer and it’s a welcome glimpse.
Elsewhere on the record Foolish Heart tells a story of heartache, Lay You Down is about being with someone as they die, and Send the Sun deals with the hardships that come with a long distance relationship. The album ends on a melodic note with Forever Lasts Forever, which reflects on the breakdown of a marriage and subsequent divorce.
Highway Queen certainly establishes Lane as an artist who is evolving and progressing with each album. Lane’s husky tones put her in the category led by the likes of Emmylou Harris rather than the contemporary feel of say Miranda Lambert. Highway Queen has some great moments on it and it’ll be exciting to watch Lane’s star continue to rise over the coming months.
Track Listing: 1. 700,000 Rednecks 2. Highway Queen 3. Lay You Down 4. Jackpot 5. Companion 6. Big Mouth 7. Foolish Heart 8. Send the Sun 9. Muddy Waters 10. Forever Lasts Forever Record Label: New West Records Release Date: 17th February 2017