Hill, Nikki - Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists - New LP
"North Carolina’s Nikki Hill is blessed with the kind of classic soul voice that could place her comfortably at any point in the history of modern music from the mid-50s onwards – feminine and tough, rich, but with that devilish Tina Turner rasp that hints at mischief to come.
"There’s a lot of character at play here. In And I Wonder she paints a picture of a woman not quite in control of her wicked side, attracting the wrong element and loving it. Vocally at least, this particular track is swimming in similar waters to the searing, heart-on-sleeve honesty of Amy Winehouse.
"And while the songwriting here falls short of the magic of Camden’s favourite daughter – it’s too focused on recreating a live barroom feel to transcend the shackles of trad blues tropes on the likes of (Let Me Tell You ’Bout) Luv – the easy boogie of Hot Shot could happily nestle among AC/DC’s back pages.
"Meanwhile, the soft-centred Nothin’ With You is so perfectly pitched for a cosy Sunday afternoon indoors, it ought to be served up with a bowlful of apple crumble." --Emma Johnston
"Nikki Hill adds some sultry R&B and Stones-style riff rock to her '50s-rooted rock ‘n’ roll on “Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists,” the Southern Fireball’s excellent debut album.
A powerhouse singer and killer live performer -- as she and her band have repeatedly demonstrated at the Zoo Bar -- Hill’s proudly retro and delivers her brand of soul-rock ‘n’ roll with expressive verve and, with the new songs, great variety and style.
There’s the sultry shimmy of “And I Wonder,” the blues-rocking title cut and the swaggering “Hotshot.” Plus there's riff rock on “Struttin’,” and “(Let Me Tell You ‘Bout) LUV,” which sounds like it came off “Exile on Main Street.”
The '50s numbers -- the burner “Oh My,” “I’m Gonna Love You” with its jumpin’ vamp and the frenetic “Scratch Back” -- really connect and the showcase ballad “Nothing With You” proves Hill can handle the slow ones just as well as the rockers.
Oh yeah, the record ends with swinging version of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” that’s one of the best covers of 2015. Grade: A-" L. Kent Wolgamott