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Nikki Hill, Jack Magic CL Recommends

When: Fri., Jan. 31 2014
Price: $5
NIKKI HILL

Though still in her 20s, rocking roots and deep soul dynamo Nikki Hill has charted an eclectic course from gospel choir schoolgirl, to teenaged punk rocker, to her current incarnation as a searing blues ’n’ gospel diva, wrapped up in Little Richard thrift-store chic. Happily, Hill transcends the retro ’50s fetishism suggested by her head-scarf-and big-bouffant image. Her energetic mix of bedrock American music rests on her declarative delivery, which echoes Mavis Staples channeling blues shouters, as well as the more measured and precise techniques of soul-jazz stylists Ruth Brown and Etta James. Blistering guitar work, courtesy of husband Matt Hill, adds a crunchy AC/DC sensibility to the subsumed melange of influences, but the spotlight rests squarely on Nikki. Whether she’s surging through a swamp rocker or cranking up a blistering ska take on a Texas Tornados’ country chestnut, Hill makes pulses pound — but she targets the heartbeat too. (Pat Moran)

— Pat Moran

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