"Especially with female singers, there aren't enough doing original writing," Nikki says. "I just wanted to put out what I thought would sound cool. It's interesting when you see the press or tour to another city. You'll read, 'Blues Band!' or 'Soul Funk Band!' But once people actually hear the record or see the show, they know it's rock & roll. For me, blues and Southern roots music is about as rock & roll as it gets."

In mid-May, Nikki Hill will release her first full-length album, Here's Nikki Hill, a record cut once again in Chicago, and again focusing on original songwriting, but this time with three covers, including a fully reworked Ike Turner song, "Gotta Find My Baby," and even a ska version of the Texas Tornados' "Who Were You Thinking Of?" The sound of the album is raw and alive, from the stomping Little Richard-esque rock & roll of opening number "Ask Yourself" to the country-gospel of closer "Hymn for Hard Luck," a spare duet between Nikki's voice and Matt's guitar. "Your hard luck will come to pass," sings Nikki. "Just live on and ease your mind." With its archetypal melody and spiritual themes, it could be a lost Staple Singers classic, but it's truly original, the work of a natural musician.

"Our sound is going to keep developing," Nikki says. "It's neat that people are out there, watching and hearing us develop. I don't want to be just a singer. It's really about that band. I've done other shows with other bands, but it's not the same thing. It's cool to have four people working as a unit, and we make the sound as a unit, no matter what. We never phone it in."

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