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Intimate setting for Memphis Ice serves Nicole Atkins well

The singer-songwriter and New Jersey native performs stripped-back versions of songs from her last studio album in a stirring new live recording.
Nicole Atkins -- Memphis Ice cover art

NICOLE ATKINS
MEMPHIS ICE
Single Lock Records (LP)
Four Stars

By John Curley

This album was recorded in one day at Memphis Magnetic Studio, and it features Nicole Atkins on vocals backed by Dan Chen on piano, Laura Epling on violin and Maggie Chaffee on cello. The live-in-the-studio performance was also filmed for a video companion to the album.

Nine of the ten tracks on the album first appeared on Atkins’ 2020 album Italian Ice. “Promised Land” is an older track, and it receives a fantastic and wonderfully poignant performance on this album. Atkins’ vocal on the track has a grand richness to it. It’s a stellar piece of work and, without question, the highlight of the set.

While some of the Italian Ice tracks work better than others in the setting on this album, they are all worthwhile. The performance of “Captain” is gorgeous. “St. Dymphna” provides a vocal spotlight for Atkins and also features nice work by the strings and Chen on piano. “A Road To Nowhere” is quite nice and provides Chen with a piano showcase during the instrumental break. “Forever” features a powerhouse vocal performance by Atkins and is quite moving. Atkins, Chen and the strings work really well together on the beautiful “These Old Roses.” Atkins’ vocal on the song is absolute dynamite. “Far From Home” includes a tour de force vocal performance by Atkins. The torch song “In The Splinters,” with Atkins’ superb vocal at its center, is the perfect closer for the album.

Atkins really shines in this setting. It would be quite nice to see her tour with this lineup. While Atkins’ voice is always powerful regardless of who is backing her, this format provides a spectacular vocal showcase for her. Memphis Ice is her finest recording yet.

Performances of three of the songs from Memphis Ice can be seen below.

“Promised Land”:

“St. Dymphna”:

“Mind Eraser”: