It would be impossible for me to list the number of times that someone has told me to embrace an antiquated role of femininity, to act more “cutesy” around men, to twirl my hair or bat my eyelashes in reverence to a tradition of submissiveness. The semantics of gender lend themselves to a progressed sensitivity; defining or identifying with tradition or modern ideals becomes precarious for both women and men.
But sometimes, the most convincing way to debunk stereotype is through music, and this is precisely what Nikki Lane does in her recently released outlaw country album, “All or Nothin.'” Produced by Dan Auerbach, the album is nothing if not a raw, gritty display of the female “yang,” thrusting the misbehaviors of drinking too much, sleeping with the wrong people, straddling the ambiguous line between good love and soured infatuation. The album begins with the track “Right Time,” when it’s also the “right time to do the wrong thing.” This do-before-you-think-about is one not expected of an attractive female, who is meant, by societal standards, to tout her coquettish nature as the catch in a chase. But Nikki Lane embraces the sultry enticement in making mistakes, of living reckless and free, with the stubborn strength of an old-time outlaw.
What is most striking about Nikki’s work on this album is not the fact that she transcends the conformities of a traditionally male-dominated outlaw country; it is that she writes subject matter that balances a brash nature with the reactionary emotion often associated with the feminine. The songs intertwine between chugging bass lines that underscore action, and spaced-out pedal steal that allows passive introspection to expand. She’s not above “seeing double,” of evening the score, but she also desires a “good man,” one for whom it is worth stewarding domestic responsibility.
We’re so used to hearing this dichotomy through a male voice; the cognitive dissonance of a country man on the run, whose heart was once weakened by a woman who escaped his grasp. But Lane brilliantly portrays these same wavering emotions in “All Or Nothin.'” springing back and forth between a fiery mind and a tempted heart.