Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers – The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 8/27/15 (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

It was pretty obvious from the turnout and the diversity of the audience, that the people of Cambridge, Massachussetts are officially Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers fans; and the feeling seemed to be mutual, as Nicki hailed the Sinclair in Harvard Square as one of her favorite venues to play on tour. After a brief intro, Nicki joined her band on stage, rocking her signature 70’s style, sipping a sensible glass of cabernet and backed by a scrim featuring the cover art for her latest album, Love Wild Lost. The absence of the band’s regular keyboardist/guitarist, and Nicki’s husband, Tim Bluhm, who is currently prepping for a tour with his other band, the Mother Hips, was briefly noticed but quickly overshadowed by the talents of the remaining four “Gramblers,” including lead guitarist Deren Ney, Steve Adams of ALO on bass, Dave Mulligan on rhythm guitar, and drummer Mike Curry.

The band kicked off their set with “The Heart Gets Tough,” off their new album, which was released earlier this year by Little Sur Records, and as Nicki stepped up to her microphone and a plethora of assorted tambourines and percussion oddities, the crowd was immediately drawn in by her soft, raspy vocals which seem to transcend time and transport you back to the Woodstock era. The setlist included a handful of fan-favorites, such as “Hey Stranger” and “A Little Too Late,” off the band’s 2013 self-titled debut album, as well as some killer covers, including Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” and a crowd-pleasing encore performance of Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That.” A personal highlight of the night was the subtle, yet sexy rendition of “Ravenous,” in which Nicki seems to channel Stevie Nicks, and guitarist Deren Ney performed a shredding Gibson guitar solo, as the entire audience rocked in unison to the band’s arguably most unique song.

Before she closed out the night, Nicki invited opener, Nashville-based classic country/alternative folk singer-songwriter, Andrew Combs and his band, to the stage for a sentimental collaboration on “Me and Slim,” which she considers the tour’s “road song,” and features lyrics like “home is the Holiday Inn,” and “there’s a lot we’re learning and even more unknown.” Combs, a Newport Folk Festival alumnus, was a perfect choice to open for the Gramblers’ headlining performance; his hipster-cowboy look and authentic bluesy-Americana sound is what popular country music is missing today, and if the fact that he sold out of his hard-copy album at the beginning of his tour is indicative of future success, then he’s definitely one to watch.

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers will continue their tour through the end of September, working their way down south and then over to California, before opening a few shows for JJ Grey & Mofro in Texas in November.

Review by Jordan Gill. All photos by Rich Gastwirt.

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