Home Read Albums Of The Week: Nicole Atkins | Memphis Ice

Albums Of The Week: Nicole Atkins | Memphis Ice

Cut live off the floor in one day, the New Jersey singer-songwriter's latest finds her transforming 2020's Italian Ice songs into lush, string-sweetened torch ballads.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “A multi-media companion to last year’s acclaimed album Italian Ice, Nicole Atkins Memphis Ice features lushly elegant, string-sweetened reinterpreations of 10 tracks from the original album. The torchy, seductive new offering was recorded live in a single day, while the performance was also filmed for release.

Hailed as clear-eyed, warm, and stylish, Italian Ice was among the best albums of 2020, its warmth, vivid color, and a tilt-a-whirl variety of musical grooves providing much-needed positivity in what proved a very difficult year. Unable to tour behind the album’s release, Atkins began hosting a variety show from her attic. Live From The Steel Porch with Nicole Atkins soon branched out, with new episodes shot at Asbury Park, N.J.’s famed Paramount Theater with such special guests as Kurt Vile and the Dean Ween Group.

The back-to-basics performances inspired Atkins to explore new and previously untapped flavors in her vocals and songcraft. Backed by an ace trio of Dan Chen (piano), Laura Epling (violin), and Maggie Chaffee (cello), Atkins recorded Memphis Ice in live off the floor in one day at Memphis Magnetic studio, simultaneously filming the performance with painterly shadow and light. The stripped-down, smoky style of both brings all-new emotional vistas to fan-favorite songs like Domino, Captain and Forever, while opening the door even wider to where Atkins would like to go next as a singer.

“I always thought about my Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli moment coming later in life,” she says. “But after we finished that day of recording, I had so much fun just singing and was so in the moment, I thought, ‘I want to do that sooner, I want to do that for my next record.’ I want to make a record of standards that are new if that’s possible. Songs that make you feel like you’re singing Stardust, but you’re not. I kept thinking that on my first record Neptune City, the songs felt old, but they were new. Why can’t there be new songs that feel like the old standards?”