When I was getting into music as a teenager, I took a genealogical approach to discovery. If I liked a particular band, then presumably I’d like the bands its members had played with previously or would play with subsequently.
If you applied that same connective logic to Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, you would a) experience a healthy degree of corollary success, and b) collect a backbreaking amount of material in a hurry.
If you’re starting with Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers’ latest album, the just released Loved Wild Lost, you’ve been drawn into a Country/Roots/Pop/Rock maelstrom that suggests Grace Potter and the Nocturnals if they’d been raised on the Bakersfield sound and dreamy California Folk/Rock, translated with a contemporary ass-kick. You’d then work back to The Gramblers’ 2013 self-titled debut, which exhibits many of the same influences and extrapolations as Loved Wild Lost. And you’d run across the band’s “Van Sessions” on YouTube, where they film themselves playing cool acoustic covers while driving between gigs; my fave is their spin on Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That,” but Daryl Hall and John Oates prefer their take on “I Can’t Go for That.” Then you’d eventually uncover Nicki’s 2011 album with husband/producer/guitarist Tim Bluhm, appropriately titled Duets. That would naturally lead to Nicki’s solo albums, 2008’s Toby’s Song and 2011’s exquisite Driftwood, which featured most of the current Gramblers as well as Phil Lesh/Black Crowes/solo keyboardist Jackie Greene, who’s in a duo with Tim called the Skinny Singers.
If you investigated further, you’d find that Tim mentored Nicki after hearing her sing following a show by his primary band, The Mother Hips, who have been around for a quarter century and released nine albums. You’d be amazed to find that Tim has four solo albums, a couple with Hips frontman Greg Loiacono as the Ball-Point Birds and guested on nearly 20 other albums, including Nicki’s solo and Gramblers albums. And if you’re a completist, then you’ll have to grab the latest Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe album, New Ammo, for Nicki’s duet with Denson on “My Baby,” and 2012’s Respect the Van by The Brothers Comatose, where she duets on “Morning Time.”
So why are you still reading this? You’ve got the best kind of work to do.
NICKI BLUHM AND THE GRAMBLERS play the Ballroom at Taft Theatre Wednesday. TIckets/more info here.