Album review: Lanie Lane/To The Horses

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Album review: roots

(NB. ABC Radio used portions of this review on their Lanie Lane page)


For lovers of retro rock and pop, the past seems to have blurred into one fuzzy-but-fun continent – a continent that speaks the languages of rockabilly, rock’n’roll, pre-war jazz, country swing and burlesque cabaret in equal measure. It all gets mixed in with girlie tattoos, hot rods, Betty Page and B-movies; all mixed in far more than the original purveyors and masters of the above genres ever did.

As a result of this movie version of music history, we have bizarre concoctions such as C W Stoneking and the oddly surreal Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. We also have artists such as Sydney’s Lanie (pronounced ‘Lannie’) Lane, whose charm and vibe override any mere ‘retro’ considerations. Whether fronting the Trocadero all-girl big band at this year’s Sydney Festival or sitting on a stool accompanying herself on guitar, Lane channels all she needs to channel to rivet and captivate.

On her debut LP To The Horses (forget iTunes, buy this one on vinyl!) Lanie Lane channels a girlishly sweet Billie Holiday, a rockin’ Connie Francis and a jazz-sassy Anita O’Day (oh and some parallels to her contemporary, Paloma Faith, though with a lot less fuss).

But enough with the namechecks – this is Lane’s baby: eleven tracks recorded in four days with her three-piece band: jazz maven Zoe Hauptmann on double bass and ukelele – check the uke solo on ‘Don’t Cry’, Aidan Roberts on electric guitar (it’s gotta be a Gretsch!) and Paul Derricott on drums, as well as guests including You Am I’s Tim Rogers. Produced with a nice clattery rockabilly immediacy on the up numbers and a cool word-in-your-ear intimacy on the quiet ones, it mixes up rock’n’roll, jazz and blues in just the right measure across the entire LP.

Starting off with Janis Martin’s ‘Bang Bang’ the album moves to her paean to her beloved and ‘in the wars’ acoustic guitar, Betty, on ‘Betty Baby’ and on through the chain-gang dirge of ‘What Do I Do?’. Stylistically she can sail a little close to the wind of retro-pastiche as on ‘Oh Well That’s What You Get (Falling In Love With A Cowboy)’ with its Ghost Riders guitar, and the following track ‘Jungle Man’, a goofy ‘Tarzan rocks’ song (but great fun anyway to anyone apart from uptight music critics…).

But it’s not all lassos and pompadours. The maturity of Lane’s songwriting really comes out in the last two tunes – the sad country blues ‘Heartbeat’ and the exceptional title track ‘To The Horses’, a poetic and captivating song. I would love to hear this covered away from the overarching retrobilly production here. That is not a criticism of this performance at all, by the way.

But I do have one criticism. Lannie Lane’s voice and approach is truly effortless: a compliment of course, but I would have liked to hear maybe a grain more grit here and there; a slightly more pained Billie, a little more unhinged Connie, a tad more sassy Anita. Thousands would disagree of course: Lane has sold out show after show launching this LP around the country (as I write she looks close to selling out her 4th show in a row at Sydney’s Vanguard) and To The Horses is already menacing the ARIA charts.

The cover art of To The Horses depicts Lane as quite the pin-up cowgirl. The image is pure 40s: rolled hair, vermillion lipstick, prop child’s cowboy hat, stylish rock’n’roll frock. But Lanie Lane’s time is now, retro flavours or not. Just watch her go, man.

Published October 2011 on


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