Wednesday night the sky looked like one big black eye as I moseyed the grey ghost downtown. I had heard word from my buddy Jason (he's the one who turned me onto Morphine) that North Carolina knockout Nikki Hill simply had to be seen. I dove into the fracas she was creating at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and was promptly blown away. So was the crowd who clapped thunderously between thunderclaps.
The crowded dance floor was in a rapid boil. This was some of the best r&b-injected, soul-ified kick in the blues I have ever heard. Hill commanded the stage perched on sparkly mules and beneath a sky-high turban channeling the sweet 'n' sour bouquet of switchblades that was once held by Etta James.
Hill's voice was sweet with just a hint of ragged rust that shone through whenever she leaned on a note. This was like a less punk-careening , more authentic-leaning Detroit Cobras. Her band was top notch as it wove through a set of awesome originals, punctuated by some Little Richard, Otis Redding, Irma Thomas, and so on.
Between sets, I stood out in the parking lot with the band discussing its expert take on TarheelSlim's "Number 9 Train." How do you like that? I thought me and Steve Grills were the only ones around who cared about Tarheel Slim.
Nikki Hill returns to Rochester to play Abilene in July. Be there, I'm warning you. Hell, I'm gonna go twice.