I’m the first to admit that my knowledge of country music is limited to the likes of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and some classic Southern rock; however, in my constant search for good music I’m always willing to explore new avenues. When I heard that Nikki Lane and Hugh Bob & the Hustle were playing at the Hotel Foster (and on Hugh’s birthday, none the less), I knew it would be a night of great music.
The night kicked off with Nikki Lane, who hails from Nashville. I always enjoy seeing female musicians who can hold their own, and they certainly did not disappoint. Nikki has an amazing voice, and the band’s vocals and harmonies create a feeling reminiscent of a relaxing summer afternoon. Her voice can be sweet and down-home as well as haunting and melodic, and their songs flow easily from one to the next. They’re headed out on tour with Hugh Bob & the Hustle now, and it will be a good one because the two bands are such an appropriate pairing.
Members from both bands played together after Nikki Lane’s set, blending nicely and providing a good transition to Hugh Bob & the Hustle’s set. Though Hugh Bob & the Hustle is made up primarily of the members of the Wildbirds, the first thing you will notice is that they are not “the Wildbirds just playing country music.” With the addition of Matt Keon on pedal steel and Allen Cote on the lap steel, this is not some bland, pseudo pop-country sound. They have a true Southern feel with solid classic rock roots that I can really appreciate. As lead vocalist, Hugh has a quiet confidence when he performs that engages the audience in an easy, friendly way. His lyrics and vocals have an honesty about them that truly compliment the sound that they bring to the stage. With songs like “Red, White & Blue Jeans” and “This Bar’s a Prison” (my personal favorite), it wasn’t long before toes started tapping and bodies started swaying, and with the size of the crowd that came out, there wasn’t much room for much more dancing. Nikki Lane joined the band for a few songs, and the entire show was a performance worthy of Hugh’s birthday celebration.
I can’t talk about this night without mentioning the great place that hosted it. If you have not yet been to the Hotel Foster, you’re missing out. The décor is beautiful, the menu boasts a diverse selection of hand crafted specialty drinks and craft beers, and the attentive staff ensure you’re taken care of regardless of how crowded it is. To be able to consistently provide that kind of atmosphere, regardless of the day of the week is something to be admired and enjoyed. And I’m sure this won’t be the only opportunity to see Hugh Bob & the Hustle at the Hotel Foster, so stay tuned.