Nicole Atkins, of Asbury Park, N.J., has stepped out of Bruce's shadow and constant comparisons to Roy Orbison, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline by living up to the hype.
Atkins is known for strong, sweeping melodies and relatable songwriting. Like the soundtrack to a strange dream, her work evokes longing: a tinge of sadness, but not hopelessness. It's true even of her upbeat songs.
Atkins collaborated with several groups while attending UNC Charlotte, where she began writing music, shifting from alt-country to '60s-style pop-rock. She returned home to Neptune, N.J., and gigged in New York, gaining source material for her first album and befriending recent tourmates The Avett Brothers.
The commuting paid off: In 2006, she signed with Columbia Records, releasing Neptune City a year later.
She has since severed ties with the label and plans to record a new album this winter with her new band, The Black Sea (previously The Sea), comprised of old friends and a drummer she met while touring with A.C. Newman.
Instead of the orchestral sound of her debut, the new material has a "darker guitar and organ sound," says Atkins. "It's a lot more raw and heavy. My influences for the new material were Nick Cave, Echo & the Bunnymen and Scott Walker. The name The Black Sea seemed to fit."
Atkins' strong crooning and darker sound is likely to overpower Club Cafe on Oct. 27.
Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea with Lohio and The Wreckids 7:30 p.m. Tue., Oct. 27. Club Cafe, 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $10. 21 and over. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com
- Nicole Atkins