Nicole Atkin’s 2020 album Italian Ice was inspired by the romance and danger of the New Jersey Shore, and was generally well received by critics and fans. Under The Radar noted the album was “stuffed with hooks and brilliant ideas”; Uncut Magazine called it “clear-eyed, warm, and stylish”.
Memphis Ice is a “reimagined companion project” to Italian Ice, recorded (and filmed) live in one day with Dan Chen (piano), Laura Epling (violin), and Maggie Chaffee (cello) at Memphis Magnetic studio.
This new album re-interprets all of the tracks from Italian Ice (save “AM Gold” and “Never Going Home Again”), and adds the previously unreleased “Promised Land”, which Atkins says is about “losing your sense of self and finally having the courage to go find it again.” The track was written some time ago and recorded a few times, including during the Italian Ice sessions, but Atkins felt it was always “too encumbered” with a full production. The version on this album is particularly well performed, with an outstanding, emotive vocal.
Memphis Ice is sequenced differently to Italian Ice, which helps put the songs in a new context for the listener, with continuity provided by “In The Splinters” closing both albums. The songs are re-vitalised by the elemental backing. The lyrics and story of “Captain”, “These Old Roses” and “Far From Home” come to the forefront with the sensitive accompaniment, and “St. Dymphna” and “Forever” are enhanced by string arrangements.
The focussed nature of the musicianship, the swell of strings and quietly insistent piano, ensure the songs are dramatically delivered (particularly the King/Goffin cover “A Road To Nowhere”). Perhaps the biggest surprise is “Domino”, a disco delight on Italian Ice, which retains its groove in this new interpretation.
At times Atkins turns to a full force vocal (what Elvis Costello has rightly termed “some serious singing”); as a result the performances of “Mind Eraser” and “In The Splinters” are extraordinary and charismatic.
Memphis Ice is available on limited edition vinyl and download.
Label: Single Lock Records
Release Date: 10 DEC 2021