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NICOLE ATKINS —GOODNIGHT RHONDA LEE (Single Lock Records)

www.singlelockrecords.com

http://www.nicoleatkins.com

New Jersey-born Nicole Atkins’ career/ life has seen her transcend through a good deal of heartache and waywardness as she struggled to stay sober long enough to build on the good times. Goodnight Rhonda Lee has the Nashville resident of the last ten years speak of her problems and how she is now ready to take life and career forward. ‘This record came to me at a time of deep transition says Atkins. Some days were good, some not so good. What I did gain, though, from starting to make some changes and going forward, putting it out on the table, was a joy in what I do again. Joy in the process, and a newfound confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever had until now. The album title, Goodnight Rhonda Lee also came from those feelings. Rhonda Lee was kind of my alias for bad behaviour, and it was time to put that persona to bed’.

 

On enlisting modern day wrecking crew Niles City Sound in Fort Worth, Texas Atkins ensured her artful creations and generally artistic shaping of her vocals and sound would be in good hands. Enhanced greatly by the subtle accompaniments her work glows, like the golden sunlight of dawn. Beautiful and awash in small hypnotic nuances that cling to you like a limpet on a boat Atkins' music recalls great artists of the past; Candi Staton, Carole King and man she co-wrote the lead off track (“A Little Crazy”), old friend Chris Isaak. What better company could she keep that him!

 

Recorded live to tape in only five days, the sound is real, and though much of the talk it about the above noted “A Little Crazy” the song that blew me away was title-cut “Goodnight Rhonda Lee”. It comes with a killer production, wonderful electric lead, rhythm guitar and percussion; it is the kind of song Isaak would love to get his hands on! But he would be hard pushed to match the vocal performance of Atkins. It doesn’t stop there as she weaves her way through the dramatic “If I Could” and warm and tender “Colors” plus a jazz drenched piano intro of “Brokedown Luck” that soon shifts to a snatch of instrumental work (Garth Hudson-esque keyboards) akin to an old Band classic, and there is more. I love the punchy swagger to her vocals as she calls on pop, rock and singer-songwriter traits in a good old-fashioned way. Her vocals are equal to the instrumental entries as she injects hints of Janis Joplin no less, vocally. She moves around the chessboard, seamlessly. Soul, r&b come into play on “Sleepwalking” as she glides majestically through the song. Prior to her speaking of old habits on jazz etched “A Night For Serious Drinkin”. To close you have the poignant “A Dream Without Pain”, and there is her pop jazz tendered “I Love Living Here (Even When I Don’t)” as she juggles her thoughts on how life really is. 

 

With the release of Goodnight Rhonda Lee Nicole Atkins has certainly come of age. I can’t wait to hear the result and direction her follow up takes and how her career progress.

 

                                                         Maurice Hope          

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
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Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
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