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Nicole Atkins: Five Essential Ryan Adams Songs

Nicole Atkins (photo by Anna Webber)

Nicole Atkins (photo by Anna Webber, PR)


[May 2018 update: Since we asked Nicole Atkins to write about her "Five Essential Ryan Adams Songs" back in 2016, she's released a new album, 2017's Goodnight Rhonda Lee, a soulful collection of personal songs that celebrated her sobriety and a refreshed artistic direction too. Atkins will be bringing her breezy, ebullient songs to the FUV High Line Bash on Friday, May 11, joining a stellar lineup of Josh Ritter, the Record Company, and the Stella Blue's Band.]

Since the release of her remarkable 2007 debut album, Neptune City, singer and songwriter Nicole Atkins has been a friend of WFUV. The New Jersey native is a frequent guest of the radio station both in the studio and in concert at Rockwood Music Hall and in 2017, she releases her fourth album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee.

The first sneak peek from that album is a torchy, yearning ballad co-written with Chris Isaak called "A Little Crazy." It premiered on the Showtime series "Roadies" in the summer of 2016 and in mood and delivery harks back to one of Atkins' many musical heroes — the late Roy Orbison.

Atkins also admires the lyrical grit and grace of FUV Essentials artist Ryan Adams, whose music has served as a soundtrack of her early years as a musician. Fresh off of a tour, she pulled together a list of her "Five Essential Ryan Adams Songs" which includes some inspired rarities:

Nicole Atkins: Five Essential Ryan Adams Songs

Whiskeytown, "Tilt-a-Whirl," unreleased
Lyrically and harmonically, it throws me in the scene, right there at the center of the ache of young love. Innocent. Agonizing. Gorgeous, under the glow of the evening lights.

"Come Pick Me Up," Heartbreaker (2000)
Everybody’s favorite breakup song! "Come pick me up/Take me out/F**k me up/Steal my records/Screw all my friends/They're all full of s**t/With a smile on your face/And then do it again/I wish you would.” Those feelings that everyone goes through at some point in a relationship, and somebody finally had the guts to say it plain, when I couldn’t.

"Funny How I’m Losing You," unreleased
"Hold this letter up to your chest and I dare you to feel a thing.” In 2001, I moved back to Jersey from Charlotte, North Carolina. A friend of mine gave me a mixtape and this song was on it, and it got stuck in the tapedeck of my Charger for a whole summer. It's nearly sixteen years later and I haven’t listened to it since, but it’ll come into my head as I lay in bed at night, an unforgettable totem of a younger me.

Whiskeytown, "Jacksonville Skyline," Pneumonia (2001)
“I was born with an abundance of inherited sadness.” At 18, whenever I was feeling pissed off with my family, I would listen to this song a bunch, smoke cigs and feel a little better that this guy was in it too. Family legacy, inherited sadness. It’s a tough lesson to learn and when he wrote this, he was a kid. Switched on, holding a light at the end of the tunnel, letting me know that what came before me, isn’t necessarily what’s ahead of me.

“Nobody Girl," Gold (2001)
Super bitter and mean. Musically, it packed a British codeine fix, putting one of my favorite voices to one of my favorite sounds for the first time. The end of the song—heavy, powerful and spinning—could have kept going. I wish it did.

- Nicole Atkins
November 2016

Read all of FUV's Five Essentials.