Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers / Nicki Bluhm

Loved Wild Lost

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Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers may hail from Northern California, but their second album, 2015's Loved Wild Lost, sounds like a lost Marin County country-rock session from the mid-'70s, with an honest, down-home sound buffered by Bluhm's sweet but soulful vocals and picking that splits the difference between laid-back acoustic rock & roll and upbeat pop with a slight rock edge. Bluhm is clearly the centerpiece of this album, between her emotionally honest but well-modulated singing and songs like "Heart Gets Tough," "Queen of the Rodeo," and "Heartache," where she gets to show off her talent for dealing with various forms of romance gone wrong. The easygoing, bluesy funk of "Mr. Saturday Night" gives the band plenty of room to show off, especially the guitar team of Deren Ney (lead) and Dave Mulligan (rhythm) and the rhythm section of Steve Adams (bass) and Mike Curry (drums), and they get good and greasy on "Me and Slim," a slightly wild tale of life on the road. Bluhm and her band (led by her husband, Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips) aren't much on histrionics, preferring to let the details tell the story, but they work together with the intuitive feel and grace of folks who have played together long enough to have an instinct for the songs, and the production is clean and unobtrusive, catching the nuances without much getting in the way. Closing out with the churchy "Heavy Hey Ya," Loved Wild Lost is a solid and pleasurable set of country-rock in the classic style, and if it isn't always strikingly original, there's little denying that Bluhm and company do this music nearly as well as any of their inspirations.

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