Nicole Atkins

REVIEW: Nicole Atkins “Memphis Ice”


Nicole Atkins – Memphis Ice

Nicole Atkins’ voice isn’t whiney, & it has a satiny power to it, a cabaret tint, at times with a country flavor (“Far From Home”), a spiritual-lite showcase (“These Old Roses”).

Though the songs for this effort were cut live in the studio, it has an ambiance of a live performance. I like the spare instrumentation. It sounds like it’s all Ms. Atkins needs to project her fluid tone with Dan Chen (piano), Laura Epling (violin) & Maggie Chaffee (cello).

The New Jersey native’s Memphis Ice (Drops Dec 10 – Single Lock Records) is her sixth studio excursion produced/arranged by Nicole. What she tries to achieve through her display goes beyond mere singing. She attempts to capture other eras through her vocalese & melodies. The magic of past chanteuses who had remarkable careers as interpreters of many songbooks.

Nicole Atkins

I look forward to Nicole one day re-creating some lost cover album that explores songs of bygone eras & resurrects forgotten gems within her own vocal range, her own interpretation & arrangement. She could just breathe new life into excellent dusty tunes suitable to her style. Marianne Faithful/Barry Reynolds’ gritty “Time Square,” Sandy Posey’s lonely “Single Girl,” or Robin Ward’s poignant “Wonderful Summer.”

Nicole’s forte is shaped by the crooners of the 50s, 60s, Tin Pan Alley, the Brill Building to rock music. An extensive range of styles she’s proven she can handle without getting her hair mussed. Appearing somewhat in a vogue-punkish manner Nicole exudes originality in each presentation.

Not quite the Tom Waits of the East Coast she does have a unique technique marginally dipped in a middle-of-the-road style with guts. “Captain,” is excellent with its grace & power. “Mind Eraser,” is well-tailored. Nicole applies plaintive intonation; her phrasing is tantalizing. A jazzy cohesion.

“St. Dymphna,” & “In the Splinters,” are the show-biz kick-ass songs. Ambitious & delightfully aggressive. “Road To Nowhere,” is a classic in my head already with its vocal expertise, vivid piano.

Interesting music by an engaging vocalist with incipient coolness. Each song is endowed with generous parts of sensitivity & grit.

Though the songs have potency, and have intense performance quality, I found some have an abundance of cliches in the lyrics. The only weakness. Of course, this can be corrected. Get past that & the album is filled with ambitious beauty

The songs individually are shaped by the wonderful voice of Nicole Atkins. “Promised Land,” is a tale sung with poignancy & clarity. Yet, how many songs do we have called “promised land?” That’s my criticism. But hey, that voice & the musical creativity inherent in this collection is basically — flawless.

Some songs with a full band appeared first on last year’s “Italian Ice,” LP. Color image by: Barbara FG. The 10-cut, 35-minute CD: available @

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