Nicole Atkins – Italian Ice (Single Lock

Release Date: Out Now

You have to respect the stones on anyone who is able to pull together musicians from different backgrounds to guest on their album with pedigrees including the Bad Seeds, Midlake and the Dap-Kings but that doesn’t mean you have to like their music. Except in this case, when the stones in question belong to Nicole Atkins and the album in question is ‘Italian Ice’. Opening with ‘AM Gold’, Atkins slides effortlessly on to our audio stage and lets the slow soul lift us gently out of our doldrums while her timeless vocal gives you some insight as to what you can expect. ‘Mind Eraser’ takes a harder funk edge with tight rhythm section while ‘Domino’ just oozes 70s cool from the streets of New York down to Miami with Atkins’ breathless voice taking centre stage.

The classic sound that Nicole Atkins has created is masterful in its quality but also in its ability to draw you in from whatever you’re doing or wherever your mind is. The swell into the chorus of ‘Forever’, for instance, could easily be Fleetwood Mac in their hey day with intimate vocals dancing atop deceptively simple arrangements. ‘Captain’ takes some lap steel and a sense of romance for a ride around the ranch before ‘Never Going Home Again’ perfectly exemplifies Atkins’ ability to orchestra a rabble in to something gorgeous which documents a real ‘change in direction’ life moment. ‘St Dymphna’ is apparently the patron saint of the mentally ill and those who suffer from neurological disorders and this woozy, bluesy plea of a song is perfectly pitched for some at the end of her tether, her wits and with no roads left to turn down. The country twang of ‘Far From Home’, however, is a far more traditional affair but that almost clipped guitar twang in the background carries the kind of sinister overtones as 50s songs about socially acceptable date rape.

As this superb album enters the home straight, ‘A Road to Nowhere’ rears up with an organ bed giving this track a power that speaks of defiance, escape, release and taking back control. ‘These Old Roses’ is a delightful and luscious arrangement that would have had Phil Spector swooning with the coquettish vocals mixing with strings, lap steel and drums that could herald an army. The album closes on ‘In the Splinters’ which is played on the only piano that survived the Alamo and sung with the living spirit of Dolly Parton being channelled through Atkins’ already impressive vocals. This album is an absolute triumph of confidence, confession and the ability to segue from one style to another without ever seeming out of place or out of time.

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