Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers + Luke & Mel
“Our music definitely hearkens another era,” says Nicki Bluhm, “but at the same time, we want it to be contemporary. Reflective of now even though it nods to other times. We want it to be vintage modern.”
With ‘Loved Wild Lost’, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers fully affirm a current place in the long winding continuum of the California Sound, born of folk, rock, country, psychedelia, blues, and pop, as ageless, adventurous, and ever-adaptive as the Golden State itself. The album – which follows the San Francisco Bay Area-based band’s eponymous 2013 debut – sees Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers teaming with producer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse, Josh Ritter), their first time working with an outside collaborator. The result is the critically acclaimed band’s most compelling collection thus far, its richly layered sound the ideal foundation for Bluhm’s remarkable voice and resonant lyrical gifts.
Three years of new experiences and nearly non-stop roadwork in the US has had a powerful effect on The Gramblers, spurring creative growth and personal reflection. Songs like “Love Your Loved Ones” explore life’s seismic shifts, what Nicki describes as “the struggle to retain the energy and optimism of youth as life becomes more complex.”
The early formations of the band go back to 2008 when Nicki started playing out to support her solo efforts. The line-up soon gelled into its current state, comprising of Nicki’s childhood friend, lead guitarist/songwriter Deren Ney, bassist/vocalist Steve Adams, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Dave Mulligan, drummer Mike Curry.
While on the road in 2012 to amuse themselves the band set up an iPhone to their rear-view mirror to film their boredom-killing ‘Van Sessions’, as the clips came to be known, which became an online phenomenon, with Nicki’s kazoo-powered take on Hall & Oates’ ‘I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’ attracting the attention of the soul icons themselves. The duo’s online support saw ‘I Can’t Go For That’ go full on viral, drawing nearly 3 million YouTube views and counting. National notice rolled in, with Bluhm being featured in The Gap’s worldwide ‘Shine’ campaign in support of their ‘Icons Redefined’ collection and widely viewed TV appearances in the US on CBS This Morning and TBS’ Conan.
It quickly became clear that Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers was more than a talented singer/songwriter and her crack backing group – they were a band. As such, what was initially planned as Nicki’s third solo record became Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers’ self-titled debut album. Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers propelled the band to national attention, earning praise from American Songwriter as “a modest, melodic gem (that) neatly combines the rustic vibe of The Band with the more polished approach of Buckingham/Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac.”
When time came to record a follow-up, the band enlisted producer Brian Deck – a veteran studio hand and founding member of Chicago’s Red Red Meat. Together Deck and the band made a conscious effort to hone The Gramblers’ sound, fusing a framework of archetypal musical idioms into something unique and universal, its individual elements complementing and counterpointing the songs’ deeper themes.
“On the last record there’s a little bit of soul, a little bit of country, a little bit of rock,” Nicki says. “This record, we were trying to make it much more cohesive.”
The ‘Loved Wild Lost European Tour’ is Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers first time in Europe and a follow up to Nicki’s 2013 acoustic trio tour.