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Nikki & the Phantom Callers’ psychedelic Americana

‘What the Daughter Does, the Mother Did’ carries listeners to simpler, complicated times

PhantomCallers6byJamieHopper (1)
Photo credit: Jamie Hopper
DISTANT MEMORIES: Nikki & the Phantom Callers play 529 Bar on Fri., Aug. 3.

On July 27, Nikki & the Phantom Callers’ debut 7-inch, titled What the Daughter Does, the Mother Did, arrived via singer and rhythm guitarist Nikki Speake’s Tiny Tornado imprint. The record’s two songs, “Prodigal Daughter” b/w “Mommas Should Know” builds on feelings of nostalgia, underscored by the crackles and pops that come along with dropping a needle onto a vinyl record, evoking more than a few good memories. Speake possesses a disarmingly smooth voice, one that’s teeming with a kind of Southern charm that delivers anyone within earshot to much simpler times.

The Phantom Callers’ lineup features Speake, bass player Anna Kramer, lead guitarist Aaron Mason, and drummer Russell Owens. While the group's initial demo recordings, released earlier this year, offer a taste of the group’s Gram Parsons-inspired psychedelic Americana inflections, What the Daughter Does, the Mother Did takes a deep dive into wistful country storytelling.

“Prodigal Daughter,” recorded by Randy Michael of InCrowd, is a duet that seesaws between Kramer and Speake. Harmonies intermingle throughout the song, magnifying a feminine mystique, burning with passion and heartache.

“It’s a call and response duet,” Speake says. “They are just living their lives separately and how they view the daughter’s life.”

Kramer takes on separate roles as mother and daughter. Throughout the song, the two harmonize — perhaps a notion that although they live apart, they will always share a connection. Midway through the song, Mason unleashes a guitar solo that blends with the vocal harmonies just as much as it stands out.

Flip to the B-side for a track that soothes as much as it unsettles. “Mommas Should Know” takes an honest look at the ways life could have gone under different circumstances. Speake’s mother died when she was 12-years-old. In the song’s chorus she sings, “Mommas should know / What to leave when they go,” searching for the guidance and direction of adulthood. “When I wrote this I was thinking about how you never know what family you’re going to be born into,” Speake says. “Our lives could have turned out in many different ways.”

Nikki and the Phantom Callers play a 7-inch release party Fri., Aug. 3, at 529. With Rod Hamdallah, Roadkill Debutante, and the Invisible Teardrops. $8. 8 p.m. 529, 529 Flat Shoals Ave. S.E. 404-228-6769. www.529atlanta.com.



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These days Gibson plays in multiple bands, each one taking on a different musical dynamic. Her angsty, rock ’n’ roll persona took refuge in the Pussywillows, a duo with Hannah Zale that formed in 2014. The group’s debut EP arrives in October, and will provide halcyon harmonies while not being afraid to rock. Her back-porch soul and acoustic Motown affinities thrive in Gibson Wilbanks, a duo with BJ Wilbanks. 

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Friday June 22, 2018 05:00 am EDT
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