Feline Roots – Nikki Hill (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I think you could make a fair argument for the idea that the more we have embraced technology, in a musical setting at least, the more we have lost something along the way. It might be taking things a bit far to say that the raw passion, the energy, the very soul of rock and roll music has, to some extent, been ripped out of the heart of music to be replaced by cold-hearted gizmo’s and gimmicks, a sort of software equivalent which can at best only partially emulate what has been lost. No, actually it isn’t taking things too far I’m happy to stand by such an idea. And why do I mention this at all? Because when you stumble across an artist who bucks such techno-trends you can hear it immediately. Nikki Hill is just such an artist.

The term fusion music rightly fills most people with dread, shuddering at the thoughts of middle class, white rock-reggae acts, folktronica hipsters gangs prowling the streets of gentrified inner cities and the like. But as with all things, it is all about getting the ingredients right and Feline Roots is the perfect mix of rock, soul, rock, blues and a touch of reggae. Did I mention rock… there is a few extra helpings of that. And after all, these are genres with close connections anyway, probably first cousins on the music genre family tree.

And not only does Nikki Hill know just which sounds to weave together into her sonic designs, it is done seemingly effortlessly. Low-slung proto-punk guitars (you know, the ones that are rock ’n’ roll rather than rock but let’s not have that argument again) guide the way, with a powerful backbeat and rumbling bass acting as the grooviest of ballast. Add to that Nikki’s soaring vocals and you have a band that is ready to not only take on any genre that you chose to name but which creates a few new ones along the way.

Get Down, Crawl reminds us that rock and roll is basically blues turned up to eleven, Just Can’t Trust You is Aretha letting loose with a southern rock band, Poisoning The Well is a tribal blues stomp and Tell the Next World is speed-freak rockabilly. There’s heavy-soul, roots gospel, country-punk, incendiary blues and the sort of rock and roll that lead the way to the LES punk explosion all of those years ago. It’s all in there.

If you think of all the cool sounds that have provided the building blocks of rock and roll, hillbilly country grooves, deft blues finesse, lush doo-wop bands and on through British Invasion reappropriating and punk’s cleansing influence, your mind is probably forming a playlist of its defining moments. Feline Roots is in many ways a potted history of that evolution, so many great elements woven tightly together, injected with passion and euphoria and delivered by a band who not only know where they are going but more importantly are fully aware of where they come from.

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