"Any day or night time, it's always the right time/It's always the right time to do the wrong thing." Those are the first words that greet listeners who are brave enough and smart enough to cue up Nikki Lane's ruggedly perfect "All or Nothin'" and press "play." Part of Lane's appeal is that she's a throwback to the country women of old, a tough, no-nonsense, straight-shooting honky tonk girl who knows when to get dressed up and when to get messed up. At the same time, Lane is completely contemporary in thought, word and deed; she'll stand by her man, but will call him on his crap in a half a heartbeat.
Musically, Lane - who also happens to be a successful fashion designer - is all over a wellworn map of influences, but she navigates with her heart rather than a compass, so her sound is never derivative or overly referential. She can channel Tammy Wynette ("Good Man"), Dusty Springfield ("You Can't Talk to Me Like That") or Shelby Lynne (the title track) and make it authentic without applying a faux veneer.
But there are equally powerful moments where Lane inhabits a similar twang pop space as Neko Case ("Seein' Double") and Tracey Ullman ("I Don't Care"). And while Wanda Jackson has been appropriately cited in Lane's press mentions, it's not hard to spot her allegiance to the likes of Waylon Jennings and Tom Petty as well.
The improvement in Lane's overall sonic approach since her 2011 debut, "Walk of Shame," can be credited to the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who has become one of the industry's most intuitively gifted and empathetic producers (he duets with Lane on the chugging and melancholic "Love's on Fire"), but the centerpiece of "All or Nothin'" is clearly Lane's irresistable songwriting skills and twangy rock babe confidence. "Walk of Shame" was a potent introduction to Nikki Lane, but "All or Nothin'" is an album to build a career upon.