Shots are fired on Nikki Lane’s sophomore album All Or Nothin’. Whether it’s in the blatant, stinging list of flaws that underlies the demands of “Man Up,” or the fierce, feigned indifference of “You Can’t Talk To Me Like That,” Lane is all blazing guns and smoke. An East Nashville backwoods beauty who runs her own vintage store as a side hustle, Lane is unafraid to buck expectations. In a landscape of countrified pop that makes her barely a blip on its radar, Lane’s got enough round vowels and steel guitar to please the purists and a vivid, aggressive songwriting style that caught the ear of Dan Auerbach, who produced the record.
But instead of gushing that a big-time indie rocker took interest in her, Lane instead expressed frustration with taking his advice. All Or Nothin’ explores further frustrations and how to battle them, transforming lust into the slyly sung “Sleep With A Stranger” and fanning the slow-burning coals of true love on a duet with Auerbach himself, “Love’s On Fire.” But this careening, savage new record wouldn’t even need The Black Keys hook to catch attention. It stands out from the bunch, much like Kacey Musgraves’ record did last year. The two have nearly nothing in common, but they’ll be contrasted and compared anyway because of their individuality and probably because they both address pot and spin sex with no strings as a potentially positive thing.
Lane’s songwriting is less cutesy than Musgraves’ though, and it gets to the heart of the matter with almost painful honesty—reference the evisceration of “Wild One” or the nuances of “Good Man” for proof. For all her aggressive posturing, it’s when she lets down her guard that Lane is at her finest. One softer ballad, “Out of My Mind,” has Nikki putting her weapons down and embracing illogical love, despite the unrequited nature of her obsession. For a second record, what strikes the most is how fully formed “Nikki Lane” is as a character—so much so that maybe her on-album persona is all real. If so, it might be nice to hear her take on something aside from love and sex. When it comes to firing off on those topics though, Lane’s quick-strike mentality and Dixie drawl are pitch-perfect.