Nicole Atkins – Memphis Ice
Single Lock Records
– out now
2.5 / 5
Nicole Atkins has a phenomenal, entrancing siren’s voice. And pairing her with piano (and light string accompaniment) promises a moody music listener’s paradise. Her latest, Memphis Ice strips bare 2020’s Italian Ice, taking apart the original album’s songs and blowing ankle-high smoke into a dark, quiet room (so to speak). Yet Memphis Ice doesn’t evoke the spine-chill we had anticipated from the New Jersey-born singer. Dan Chen’s piano has Atkins back, and the two are a sublime pairing, yet the songs they reimagine don’t hold up to the nakedness they bring them to.
We love our vocalists all alone at the front of the stage, and Atkins certainly takes a risk in doing so. But for a song like “These Old Roses,” Atkins’ baring and carrying these lyrics makes the song feel cheap and chintzy (yes, that was a thrifty pun). It’s difficult to croon “These old roses / Have seen better days” to piano backing and make it evoke deep emotion; and try as Atkins might, it doesn’t strike the right chord. “Domino” is another a song that feels that it has all the pieces, but doesn’t quite make the transition to this darker style. It opens with deep left-hand piano notes beautifully, but the song swiftly deflates at the chorus, where the original lyrics feel choppy in this new style.
Stylistically, we sensed Memphis Ice could be kindred with Deer Tick’s The Black Dirt Sessions, but unfortunately, these songs are mismatched with the style Atkins attempted here. The album doesn’t quite come together; take a pass.