For everyone, not just a few

Nickel and Rose create gorgeous Americana that can also cut right to the quick

By Rev. Adam McKinney on March 14, 2019

It's a funny thing, that subgenre known as Americana. In the nearly 10 years that I've written about music for this fine rag, I've surely used that term many, many times, and I've never thought much further past its surface level connotation: homegrown roots music with ties to country, folk, rock and roll, and soul. You conjure a mental image when you think about Americana, one of acoustic guitars, pianos, upright bass, maybe some banjos, some button-up shirts and suspenders.

It's a shallow way to think about the subgenre, and it's one that is challenged by the "Americana," title track of the 2018 release by Nickel and Rose. The duo -- made up of Carl Nichols on guitar and Johanna Rose on upright bass -- makes almost painfully beautiful music that dabbles in folk, country, jazz, blues, world music, and yes, Americana. On that title track, Nichols, a black man, gets straight to the heart of how exclusionary the Americana world can feel to a person of color, beginning with this opening line: "If I wasn't standing on this stage, would you wonder why I was here?" The gorgeous, incisive, and deeply felt track examines segregation, invokes Americana pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and calls out Elvis Presley, all the while lamenting how Nichols "thought this was for everyone, not just a few."

"Americana" is a stunner of a song, but Nickel and Rose -- trading off vocals, with each singer possessing honeyed, unguarded voices -- prove themselves, over the course of their two EPs, to be natural singer-songwriters with an ear for plentiful hooks and outstanding melodies. They clearly have a great deal of affection for the weathered genres they're performing, but they never tether themselves to dutifully recreating the past, instead always looking for ways in which to innovate and fold in more electrifying sounds. Nickel and Rose, already deservedly on the rise, are a band to keep on your radar.

NICKEL AND ROSE, w/ Lace Perfors, Corey Andrew Iris, 7 p.m., Monday, March 18, The Pig Bar, 619 Legion Way, Olympia, $5 suggested donation, 360.943.6900


Cuban multi-instrumentalist Daymé Arocena will be stopping by the Rialto Theater this Sunday, bringing with her a kind of joyful music that similarly blends genres and time periods to provide the maximum amount of punch and full-body-affecting rhythm. Santerian chant, jazz, R&B, and Afro-Cuban influences meld together with a performance that will have you wishing the Rialto had room for more than tapping toes. Despite the complexity on display, this is not the sort of "heady" music that you nod along to thoughtfully, but actually feel nestling into your muscle tissue.

DAYME AROCENA, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 17, Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9th St., Tacoma, $19-$39, 253.591.5890,

Canadian indie rock outfit Apollo Ghosts disbanded in 2013, but before that, they were creating some of the leanest, cleverest, most economically ear-worm-inducing music out there. With their preferred song-length capping out at a minute-thirty, with the rare few surpassing the two-minute or three-minute line, Apollo Ghosts occupied a space somewhere between Guided By Voices and the Unicorns. After all those years in silence, they've struck out on the road, once again, ambitiously hitting both Tacoma and Olympia (a definite no-no for whatever overlords decide the shows around these parts).

APOLLO GHOSTS, w/ Calvin Johnson, Jock Tears, 7 p.m., Sunday, March 17, Le Voyeur, all ages, 404 4th Ave. E., Olympia, cover TBA, 360.943.5710,

APOLLO GHOSTS, w/ Jock Tears, Retrospecter, Owl Booth, 7 p.m., Monday, March 18, The New Frontier, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020

Olympia Jazz Central are throwing an event called "Women in Jazz: The Women Be Jammin'," which is more or less what it sounds like: a rhythm section (made up of Marina Albero on piano, Lorree Gardener on bass, and Darlene Jones on bass) will be taking the stage, allowing for all comers to bring their instruments or their voices along with them to join in on an improvisational jam. Think of this as one glorious evening of free association and free expression.

WOMEN IN JAZZ: THE WOMEN BE JAMMIN', Monday, sign-up at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m., Rhythm and Rye, 311 Capitol Way N., Olympia, $5-$25 suggested donation, 360.705.0760