Nikki Sue & the Bad News: Lower Places
Attention Nashville, Jenny Lewis fans, Saddle Creek Records subscribers, and country-loving boys and girls of all ages: American folk rock has been found again, and this time, it’s right here in our home state.
Introducing New Jersey’s most thriving rockabilly band: Nikki Sue & The Bad News. Staying true to the NJ art and music scene, Lower Places is a wholehearted DIY construction. Nikki Ilchert and lead guitarist Ben Hutcheon mixed, recorded, and mastered their latest EP in Ben’s home studio. “It’s important to me that the audience identify with my lyrics,” Nikki admits. “A lot of my songs are on the darker side, like ‘Hell to Pay,’ but it’s not intended to depress anyone. It’s intended to do quite the opposite; I want to make my audience feel less alone.”
All six tracks that comprise this effort are irresistibly catchy. Nikki lays down each one with a gentle, stark, and smart delivery. She introduces preeminent lyrics, which are generationally applicable, as she questions the significance of places and people. In “Maps,” Ilchert evaluates the authenticity of our youth culture and our natural, or seemingly unnatural, habitats: “Oh there’s art/ it’s hung up on the wall/ Is it even art at all/ if it’s everywhere you go?” She sings triumphantly about sorrow and suggests that bad things happen to everyone, and that that’s okay. Stylistically, each song on Lower Places is congruent to one another. Each track offers different levels of jaunty cadence; the variation is slight, much like a ten degree drop in temperature, or the feelings a person endures on a long car ride — different, but of the same experience.
Since Lower Places made its debut in late March, Nikki and Ben have expanded their band and added more Jersey-bred musicians: Anthony O’Connor on the drums, Dan Maxwell on the lap steel, and Steve Salerno on the bass guitar. “It’s nice to be in a place where there are so many opportunities to play live,” Nikki remarks, “and people who are willing to listen, and other artists to bounce ideas off of and be inspired by.”
Lower Places is nostalgia in its finest form. Its overt thematic connectivity to oneness pays homage to life’s smaller moments, which in turn can make a vacant heart feel whole again. It’s harmony’s victory over sadness, and it’s the best bad news you’ll ever hear.