Highway Queen by Nikki Lane on New West Records

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

This will be Nikki Lane’s third album and the expectations will be high after her amazing 2014 release, All Or Nothing. She may have exceeded All Or Nothing with Highway Queen. After a few listens, it is apparent to me that this is a special album. The songs are all infectious and prominently display Nikki’s beautiful voice.  This album is country for sure, but it contains a few more elements. Some of songs are all quite atmospheric and contain a bit of  psychedelic rock. Other have a nice helpin’ of rock and roll. Regardless of the song, Nikki’s lovely country sound comes through loud and clear. 

Highway Queen is actually take 2. Nikki had recorded a bunch of tracks and didn’t really like what she heard. She didn’t think enough of “her” came through on the original recordings. She scrapped all those original songs and completely started over. Highway Queen is the result of that do over. It is rare that a do over can sound this good and fresh. That takes incredible courage and conviction to completely start from scratch. Although it was risky, that move will pay off for Lane with dividends. Lane also states that this process gave her more confidence on her talents as a recording artist and performer.

My early favorite from Highway Queen has to be Jackpot (Track 4). It is a real country number infused with some early rock and roll and some ambient guitar riffs. This song works well and sounds good. The song even contains the line “Viva Las Vegas” paying homage to The King. This song compares love and a good relationship with gambling and hitting the proverbial “jackpot”. “Jackpot, I hit the number, it was always you”, say Lane in that wonderful country style she displays.

The title track, Highway Queen (Track 2) is another winner. This is almost a psychedelic pop song with some really heavenly guitar solos. It’s about a woman who picked the road to settling down with a man. Could be a bit autobiographical, as any performer that plays a lot of gigs know that their first marriage is to the road. 

Sixty thousand miles of blacktop 
Countless broken hearts between 
Winding lines of white that don’t stop 
Livin’ the life of the Highway Queen 
She’s a siren leaves you pinin’, haunts your mind like a melody 
If you can tie her down, you can bottle lightnin’ 
But the Highway Queen don’t need no king 
Highway Queen don’t need no king

Profound words from Lane, who is already a veteran of the road. Lane’s voice is particularly catchy as she belts out the lyrics. Her inflection and raw emotion sre prominently on display. The guitar solo at the end of this song is absolutely on fire.

Luckily, Entertainment Weekly is streaming the entire album prior to release date. Do yourselves a favor and give it a serious listen. It is worth the time investment. 

Preorder Highway Queen here

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