Tag Archives: Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

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The Bowery Ballroom Gets Hit by a Force of Nature

August 31st, 2015

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – The Bowery Ballroom – August 28, 2015

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The giant image of a clearing in the woods—echoing the album cover of Nicki Bluhm’s new LP, Loved Wild Lost—that hung at the back of the stage on Friday night added a touch of mystery to The Bowery Ballroom. But there was nothing mysterious about Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers’ appeal as they easily won over the crowd with a high-energy performance of originals and covers. Before they took the stage, Andrew Combs offered an excellent opening set of country music unleashed. Playing songs like “Slow Road to Jesus” and “Suwannee County” off his new album, All These Dreams, Combs and his band mixed harmonies and groovy playing to get the audience warmed up and then some.

Afterward, Bluhm followed her bandmates onstage, immediately a towering presence standing there in a low-cut white jumpsuit, her hair blown constantly by a fan. The ’70s-sex-appeal look matched her voice and the band’s sound, which straddled country, rock and soul with natural ease. They opened with “Heart Gets Tough,” off the new album, Bluhm belting out the lyrics while the Gramblers settled in. Throughout the set, she was a powerful mix of Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, shining on the high-energy, high-volume material like “Mr. Saturday Night,” and just as powerful on the quiet, tender side, on songs like “Only Always.” The Gramblers were a seasoned complement, a rocking force that allowed Bluhm to strut and dance around the stage, picking up strategically placed tambourines and other percussion instruments along the way.

Bluhm and the Gramblers are well-known for their Van Sessions—online videos of covers performed while on the road—so it’s no surprise that the show featured several great picks, including a this-song-is-a-perfect-fit rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That” was done acoustically in front of a single microphone, country meeting funk and getting along swimmingly. Afterward, when everyone moved to go back to their original spots onstage, Bluhm was having none of it: She called them back for a fun sing-along take on the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” Later, they invited Combs and his entire band out for a hootenanny of a jam session on Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas.” Still, Bluhm and Co. weren’t yet finished, saving their best all-out rocking and jamming for the show’s final stretch, which included a romp on “Little Too Late” and Andy Falco sitting in on a double-guitar, Allman Brothers–esque take on “Jetplane,” before finally ending the set with “Kill You to Call,” Bluhm at full strength, a force of nature that the Gramblers were only barely able to corral. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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A Little Bit Country and a Little Bit Rock and Roll

March 28th, 2013

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – The Bowery Ballroom – March 27, 2013


I spent a little too much time last night trying to figure out exactly what a Grambler is. That’s the name of Nicki Bluhm’s backing band, in town for a boisterous set of soulful honky-tonk last night at The Bowery Ballroom. With their “YouTube sensation” label and their standard rock-band setup—bass, drums, guitar, Rhodes, female lead singer—the name “Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers” felt like it could have been auto-generated.

Perhaps a Grambler is someone who tells a rambling story, but with guitars, as the band did throughout with country-rock songs like “Go Go Go” beefed up with twang-y guitar and Bluhm nicely channeling Dolly Parton. Maybe it’s someone who likes to take risks while crisscrossing the country (gambling while rambling). Or perhaps it’s a husband–and-wife team displaying their emotions bare onstage with powerful duets like Nicki and Tim Bluhm did with “Stick with Me” and “Till I’m Blue.” Or maybe a Grambler is someone carrying on the tradition of Gram Parsons, like when the band brought up pedal-steel player Jon Graboff, who added some much-needed oomph to the early part of the set.

The highlight of the night for me was when the Bluhms sang a lovely duet on Kenny Loggins“Danny’s Song,” with Graboff’s beautiful steel playing accentuating perfectly, capped by a stolen smooch. Things picked up steam from there, the band grambling their way through a high-energy “Jetplane” with multiple slide- and pedal-steel guitar solos and the makings of a full-band jam. The set had a nice balance of covers and originals, older songs and songs yet to be released. The climax of the night was the new “Little Too Late,” a single-ready gem of a song that encapsulates Bluhm’s sound. And in case I still wasn’t clear just what a Grambler is, the encore laid it out: a gorgeous gospel number, “In the Mountains,” sung in three-part harmony around a single microphone followed by the angry-heartbreak rocker “Kill You to Call.” Whatever the definition, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are the real deal. —A. Stein