Nicole Atkins was raised on the Jersey Shore, but she started to write original music while attending UNC Charlotte. Upon graduation, she headed to NYC—settling in Brooklyn—and performing wherever and whenever she could. Eventually she moved back to North Carolina before resettling in Jersey. But all along she continued honing her exceptional songwriting, which has become her calling card (along with some delightfully throaty vocals). Atkins’ second disc, Mondo Amore, came out earlier this year, and the Guardian has written of the singer-songwriter and her band, the Black Sea: “Imagine Roy Orbison as a chick fronting a band of elves.” Pretty cool, right? And while Atkins has crafted some impressive original tunes, she’s not afraid to embrace the past either. Check her out joining My Morning Jacket on the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell classic “You’re All I Need to Get By” and covering “I Won’t Back Down” with Nikolai Fraiture at last year’s Petty Fest, plus, above, doing “The Way It Is” on Later … with Jools Holland. And then do yourself a favor and see Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea tomorrow night at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Tag Archives: Mondo Amore
Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea – The Bowery Ballroom – February 9, 2011
By the time Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea took the stage last night at The Bowery Ballroom, it was nearly 11 p.m. and the patient crowd was growing antsy. But from the first staccato thrash of Irina Yalkowsky’s guitar to kick off the opener, “Heavy Boots,” there was no doubt in any corner of the packed room that the wait was worth it. That tune is from Atkins’ new release, the excellent Mondo Amore, just out Tuesday, so the Bowery show served as a CD-release party and a tour opener. But it felt much more like a homecoming with a friendly crowd, guests referred to only by first name or “our friend” and plenty of banter with the band’s friends in the balcony.
Mixing the new stuff with plenty of old favorites, it took just two songs before the audience was bouncing, hands in the air and singing along with the kind of giddy energy reserved for the end of the workweek. There were dual forces working in tandem. First was Atkins’ voice, which recalls the key elements of some of the best female voices in rock and roll today—the haunting self-contained reverb of Neko Case, the pure rock and roll power of Erika Wennerston and the grit of Lucinda Williams—while still a unique thing all its own. Her voice was filled with dark energy and it popped out in three dimensions from the nine or 10 musicians backing her. Even sitting there alone with just an acoustic guitar, as she did late in the set on “Monterey Honey,” Atkins’ voice had the same intoxicating effect.
The second force was the Black Sea (bass, guitar, drums, keys, a two-woman string section and three backup singers), working as an incredibly tight-knit group. Sure, there was some tasty guitar work, with and without Yalkowsky’s slide, but for the most part they wailed as a single entity, each instrument complementing the others in perfect, raging harmony. Pulling together influences from Loretta Lynn country to Aretha Franklin soul to straight-up Rolling Stones rock, the group supplied its own dark debauchery while matching Atkins the whole way through. —A. Stein