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Liner Notes

First Listen: Nicki Bluhm's 'Avondale Drive'

Nicki Bluhm

At least ten years ago, I became aware of Nicki Bluhm when I came across a viral video that she had made with her band, in what they ended up calling "The Van Sessions," doing a cover of a Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go For That." Not only was Hall & Oates one of my favorite childhood bands (they were my first concert at ten years old), but I thought it was a brilliant marketing idea. I was working at Ardent Studios at the time, and we had just launched a new imprint called Ardent Music, with several local bands newly signed to the label. After watching the video, I marched to the back of the building to Jody Stephens' office and said, "This is the kind of stuff our bands need to be doing!" Then I stood over his desk and watched 4 or 5 of her van videos in a row. They were all fantastic.

It was a great strategy to gain new fans by simply hacking YouTube's search engine, but on top of that, Bluhm had the chops to sing all of these beloved, classic songs that she covered. I liked her before I ever heard a note of her own music.

Fast forward a decade, after two solo albums and two albums with her band, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers. In yet another Memphis connection, she decided to record her next solo album, To Rise You Gotta Fall (2018), in Memphis. It was a natural blending of Tennessee roots and Bluhm's West Coast style. The recording took place in legendary Sam Phillips Recording Services with Matt Ross-Spang, one of Memphis's go-to producers, whose previous credits include Jason Isbell and Margo Price. Together, the duo created a record with what they termed an authentic 'CaliMemphis' sound.

Now, in 2022, Bluhm is set to release a new album recorded in her home in Nashville with Los Angeles producer Jesse Noah Wilson, the aptly titled Avondale Drive. A blend of country rock, folk, 60's pop, and early 70s rock, its throwback sound perfect for a gal's Sunday morning coffee before she washes that man right out of her head. It would be hard not to love this album if you have a penchant for updated mid-century sounds.

While I could discuss what the songs are about and what they sound like, instead we asked Bluhm to listen to the album with Wilson to share their thoughts and trivia about the album. It's a deep dive into the tracks you won't find anywhere else - especially since the album doesn't drop until this Friday.

Please enjoy WMOT's First Listen with Nicki Bluhm.

WMOT First Listen: Nicki Bluhm's Avondale Drive