Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers: Loved Wild Lost

Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers
Loved Wild Lost
(Little Star)
3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Look no further than the title of Nicki Bluhm’s sophomore album with her Gramblers band (and fourth overall) to get an idea of its lyrical contents. Titles such as “Waiting on Love,” “Heartache” and “Heart Gets Tough” imply that beneath the sunshiny surface of these tracks lies darker clouds.

Musically Bluhm and her band remain informed by the clean cut California rock and pop that has previously dominated their sound. Clean, clear, unfussy and defined production from Brian Deck (Modest Mouse) pushes the band to reach outside their core circle and invite in an outside collaborator for the first time. Consequently the overall tone feels more sedate than in the past, exhibited by a somber string section swirling underneath the charmingly melodic “Love Your Loved Ones.”

The countrypolitan “Simpler Times” recalls the early Linda Ronstadt influences of Bluhm’s earlier albums. The melancholy “Queen of the Rodeo,” borrows Beach Boys’ “bah-bah-bah” backing harmonies and adds mandolin for a lovely ballad that still doesn’t let much sunshine in.  A shift into surprisingly convincing blues rock on “Heart Gets Tough” and especially “Me and Slim” displays a heavier, harder side to Bluhm that is worth further exploration. The band even shifts into some light sinewy funk on the cautionary “Mr. Saturday Night.”

The closing churchy “Heavy Hey Ya,” sung with just keyboards and churchy male harmonies, further illustrates the clarity, purity and natural sweetness in Bluhm’s voice and the band’s approach. It closes an album that gently pushes boundaries on the group’s established country pop while reaffirming a commitment to easy rolling melodies and Bluhm’s inviting, honeyed vocals that remains their most impressive asset.


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