Cleveland, OH, 44110
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:30 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
To borrow a phrase from heaven’s new poet laureate, Leonard Cohen, Nicole Atkins was “born with the gift of a golden voice.” But somewhere along the way she misplaced it. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is the story of Nicole finding her voice, and how, in doing so, she went a little crazy.
Great Art is born of struggle and Nicole was struggling. The problem was that she felt nothing. Her fans responded to her performances with the same fervor they always had, but Nicole felt nothing. Her new husband loved her and doted on her, but she felt nothing. She traced it back to her drinking and decided to try to learn to live without booze. But that first day of sobriety brought with it an unexpected additional test — Nicole’s dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. This Jersey girl, whose big voice was tethered to a big heart, and whose reaction to the mundane setbacks of everyday life had always been equally overblown, suddenly faced a real problem. “It toughened me up,” she says.
And the songs started to come. Little bursts of therapeutic creativity. Thorny feelings transubstantiated into melodies. Beginning with “Listen Up,” a wake-up call to a lucky girl who hadn’t realized how lucky she’d been, Nicole started to find her redemption in these songs. They rang true in a way no songs ever had before. They came from a deep, vulnerable place. If Nicole had been living an unexamined life, she wasn’t anymore.
She needed her newfound toughness though, as in the midst of all this turmoil, she prepared to move from her native Asbury Park to Nashville. Having spent more than a decade as the de facto queen of Asbury, Nicole was finally leaving the warm, but often stifling confines of her hometown. During one of her final nights before the exodus, a song came to her in a dream. “I Love Living Here Even When I Don’t” summed up the complicated feelings she experienced as she said goodbye to the only real home she’d ever known.
In Nashville, Nicole’s once hectic life was very different. Left home alone as her tour manager husband plied his trade out on the road, Nicole found herself writing songs that examined “feelings of separation and being scared of new surroundings.” In particular, the songs “Sleepwalking” and “Darkness Falls” echo like ghosts through an empty house.
Unsurprisingly, her sobriety faltered. She drifted in and out of it. Nicole knew the wagon was good for her, but she had a hard time staying focused on what was good for her. As it went on however, the clarity of those sober days started to shine through. And she was able to string them together in longer stretches. For the first time, she was able to offer a shoulder for others to lean on, rather than always being the one in need of a shoulder. It helped that she had to be strong for herself in order to be strong for her dad. Much of what she was feeling was painful, but it beat the hell out of feeling nothing.
She reconnected with her old friend Chris Isaak who encouraged her, in the midst of all the soul-searching and soul-baring, to write songs that emphasized the one trait that most sets her apart from the mere mortals of the industry, telling her, “Atkins, you have a very special thing in your voice that a lot of people can’t or don’t do. You need to stop shying away from that thing and let people hear it.” To that end, the two of them collaborated on Goodnight Rhonda Lee‘s standout track, the instant classic, “A Little Crazy.”
Great Art is a journey — and Nicole Atkins traveled quite a distance to bring us Goodnight Rhonda Lee. As Nicole explains it, “This record came to me at a time of deep transition. Some days were good, some not so good. What I did gain, though, from starting to make some changes and going inward, and putting it out on the table, was a joy in what I do again. Joy in the process and a newfound confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever had until now. The album title, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, also came from those feelings. Rhonda Lee was kind of my alias for bad behavior, and it was time to put that persona to bed.“
The direction in which these songs were headed was obvious. Nicole’s voice had always recalled a classic vinyl collection. She is the heir to the legacy of “Roy Orbison, Lee Hazelwood, Sinatra, Aretha, Carole King, Candi Staton.” She is untethered to decade or movement or the whim of the hipster elite.
In order to capture the timelessness she sought, Nicole enlisted a modern day Wrecking Crew: Niles City Sound in Fort Worth, TX, who had just risen to national acclaim as Leon Bridges‘ secret weapon. “We spoke the same language. We wanted to make something classic, something that had an atmosphere and a mood of romance and triumph and strength and soul.” The album was recorded in five days, live to tape. The album that Nicole and the boys came up with in those five days, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, is nothing less than Great Art and a quantum leap forward for Nicole Atkins who, no matter how much she grows up, will always be a little crazy.
At 14 years old, Ruby Boots – real name Bex Chilcott – left a conflicted home in Perth, Western Australia to do gruellingwork on pearling boats and she hasn’t stopped migrating since. Her nomadic streak has taken her around the world and eventually to Nashville, TN.
Don’t Talk About It charts this drifter’s odyssey, tattered passport in hand. Behind her commanding and versatile voice, sharp guitar playing and adept songwriting, Ruby Boots confidently manoeuvres past the whirlwinds life has tossed on her occasionally lost highway. It’s an album of hope, breakthrough, and handling the unknown challenges around the next bend.
The roads taken, the miles traveled and the voices heard during Ruby’s life’s trek resonate throughout Don’t Talk About It. Informed as much by the wide-open landscapes of her homeland as the intimate writing circles of Nashville, the album may range far and wide but always maintains a firm sense of place. Echoes of first wave UK power pop and jangly punk intersect with the every(wo)man indie and pop-inflected muscle of Best Coast. Classic rock touchstones from T. Rex to Girl Group Wall of Sound to personal hero Tom Petty meld with a weary poet’s eye recalling Hope Sandoval.
On her sophomore album Ruby continues to map out a polished-yet-fearless, bare-knuckled self, previously hinted at on her last album, Solitude. In 2016, Ruby met with Lone Star state-bred studio wizards The Texas Gentlemen and the album’s eventual producer Beau Bedford. The group had stopped off in Nashville on their way to back Kris Kristofferson at Newport Folk Festival and a mutual admiration society quickly coalesced. The collective pulled a handful of songs from the 40 she had waiting and began recording at their Dallas-based studio, Modern Electric Sound Recorders.
The album rips right open with “It’s So Cruel”, strutting through the door with split harmonic, bawdy, fuzzed-out guitars, reminiscent of a glammy, ‘70s Southern rock-soaked Queens of the Stone Age. It all captures the meteoric emotional flares of an adulterous relationship destined to fail. The Gentlemen spell a Stetson-hat wearing Wrecking Crew, as they lay down dusty gothic vibes in the Nikki Lane co-written “I’ll Make It Through”, building towards a crescendoing, persevering, bright chorus. On “Believe in Heaven” doo wop beats, dark choral echoes, and a plucked string section lead into ZZ Top full-bodied rawk riffage.
But the most defining of tones come through in spirit, when on the a capella “I Am A Woman” Ruby reaches towering vocal peaks, shredding raw, putting it all out there. The song could be a traditional spiritual, as she belts: “I am a believer/ Standing strong by your side/ I’m the hand to hold onto/ When it’s too hard to try… I am a woman/ do you know what that means/ You lay it all on the line/ When you lay down with me.”
Of the song Chilcott says, “‘I am a Woman’ was conjured up amid recent events where men have spoken about, and treated women’s bodies, the way no man, or woman, should. This kind of treatment toward another human being makes every nerve in my body scream. These kinds of incidents are so ingrained in our culture and are swept under the carpet at every turn—it needs to change. As tempting as it was to just write an angry tirade I wanted to respond with integrity, so I sat with my feelings and this song emerged as a celebration of women and womanhood, of our strength and our vulnerability, all we encompass and our inner beauty, countering ignorance and vulgarity with honesty and pride and without being exclusionary to any man or woman. My hope is that we come together on this long drawn out journey. The song is the backbone to the album for me.”
Don’t Talk About It smoulders with a fighting spirit and pulls influence and experience from many pins in the map, but is 10 songs harbored in the singularity that is Ruby Boots.
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