As unique to ones individuality as a fingerprint, the precise phrasing and tone of our speech is a singular characteristic that isn’t meant to be shared with anyone. Using her own to enrich each word she sings with a heart-stopping delivery and keenly felt perspective, Nicole Atkins was born with a voice as big and bright as a bolt of lightning. Providing her music with brilliant layers of cadence and depth, that mesmerizing combination doesn’t just rise to the surface- it fuels everything. Although even as that union has flourished over the years, emerging as the undeniable crux of her sound, it’s never felt as electrifying as it does throughout Goodnight Rhonda Lee. Projecting every mindset and mood, the musician’s lyrical candidness and powerhouse vocals succeed in articulating every particle of hardship and resilience. But the weariness and intensity that can come across so strongly is joined with the clear-eyed insight of hindsight. That sincere, levelheaded sense of clarity crystallizes fast, supplying the record with a touch of gratitude for the lessons learned and mountains already climbed.
Taking its title from the very name Atkins has attributed to past instances of bad behavior, Goodnight Rhonda Lee doesn’t shy away from self-scrutiny. And even though holding ourselves up to a magnifying glass is to not always like what we see, the musician’s songs have only benefitted from that resolve. “May my path be lit up by the bridges that I’ve burned,” she sings, instantly casting one of the album’s most enduring images during “A Dream Without Pain.” With declarations like that, it can often feel as if each indentation and groove in the vinyl marks another experience that the songwriter has drawn from. Although in addition to the elements of reflection on tracks like “Listen Up” and “Brokedown Luck,” her newest collection boasts some of the most nimble music of her career. Framed by bursts of brass and soul, “Darkness Falls So Quiet” and “Sleepwalking” stand out amongst a track listing that’s continually energized by it’s own rousing production. And by mixing that polish with unvarnished depictions of life, Atkins infuses her fourth record with a striking mix of substance, style and grace.
Article: Caitlin Phillips