Nikki Hill lays roots in Dibden


Nikki Hill, in concert

Nikki Hill rocked Dibden in a Creative Audience event on Sept. 25. Her website advertises her music as “roots rock ‘n’ roll,” roots like the site’s look – ‘50s diner. Roots like her style, aping that of Ella Fitzgerald. But it’s accurate advertising. She plays your basic rock ‘n’ roll, “basic” being no comment on its quality.

Which is solid – if the music were any less solid, it might be retro. Much whiter and it might be Amy Winehouse. That’d be a step down. At her best, Amy Winehouse played the kind of be-bopping pop-rock you feel in your knee-highs. Nikki Hill covers more ground, from Chuck Berry-style rock ‘n’ roll – the kind you feel swimming around toward your privates – to early Motown r&b – the kind that’s instantly swimming around your privates.

She’s backed by an equally surprisingly solid band, including her husband, guitarist Matt Hill. He even manages to channel that reservoir of ‘50s guitar power under the current legal ownership, I believe, of Neil Young: that crunching, steam-powered guitar sound. I’m also obliged, as a drummer, to recognize hers, Joe Meyer, whose kinetically propelled rhythm is, well, classic.

That’s the ish with Nikki Hill. It’s only an ish because she is so good, and I hope that goodness reaches as many ears as possible. Nikki’s voice can sound Southern as well as Northeastern, gospel as well as New York r&b. She sounds eruptive and empassioned.

But will ears recognize her cohesive rhythm as originality, or her characteristically ‘50s sound as novelty? No kidding she’s the Real Deal, the hell with novelty. And sure, Dibden cheered – but Dibden cheered Barefoot Truth.

Anyway, my sociological hang-ups aside, if you missed Nikki Hill’s Dibden performance, check out her first album, “Here’s Nikki Hill” (classic title, too). You can stream it on her website, She sounds better live.

She sounds damn good recorded, too. I’m partial to “Who Were You Thinking Of?”, which is just a tempo away from reggae. The lyrics: “Who were you thinnnnking of/When we were maaaaking love/Last night?” My hope: Me. But even more so, I hope you’re thinking of her.