Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers 

It takes no time at all to fall in love with Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. The West Coast pop-country band feels classic but not apish. It's 1970s California. It's groovy and dusty and liberated. In "Before You Loved Me," Bluhm sings "You went on breakin' my heart before you even loved me. / No matter how hard I tried I couldn't make a man out of you." Nice burn! Country-western tunes such as "Stick with Me" roll freely with the churn of a sweet bass line. "Wanna Be Your Mama Again" could go on an all-lady country mix featuring Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. Bluhm can sing sweet—and, man, does she have an amazing voice—but she's powerful, too.

"Women's Prison" is maybe the raddest song of the bunch. The duet between Bluhm and her husband, Tim, who's in her band, tells the story of a couple who decide to rob a bank when their money dries up: "Desperate times for desperate measures call, / the deer hunting season didn't start until fall." Everything goes wrong and she ends up in prison, which leads to the awesome chorus "Women's prison! / Not the life I thought I'd lead. / Women's prison! / Takes a toll on you and me." Somehow both funny and heartwrenching. That's good writing.

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers plays the Top Hat Wed., July 25, at 9 PM with Butter. $10/$8 advance.

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