“Brokedown Luck” by Nicole Atkins

104. Song No. 1,394: “Brokedown Luck,” Nicole Atkins
Goodnight Rhonda Lee, 2017

I mean, yeah, exploring the whys of going sober isn’t exactly relatable content but an album full of rock-solid songs that rock is still irresistible no matter the alien terrain it traverses.

Despite being another powerhouse talent coming out of Jersey, it took a mixed CD from a friend in New England for Nicole Atkins to get on my radar. From that crushing, anthemic first impression from “Kill the Headlights” befitting one of the most flawless debut albums ever to the pandemic-blessing of her most recent album, Atkins churns out consistently kick-ass collections of tunes.

But some of those songs are extra fan-fucking-tastic and so compulsively sing-alongable and just plain raucous fun that they can’t help but stand out from a flock of otherwise awesome songs that would be crowning achievements for anyone else. And “Brokedown Luck” is one of those mind-blowing songs on one of those hear-it-and-love-it kinds of albums.

I absolutely still buy CDs and records because I still don’t trust an exclusively virtual library of music prefer tangible things and love cultivating a physical collection I’m proud of. And when a Red Bank whim grabbed hubs, some friends and me one Saturday last summer, a stop at the legendary Jack’s Music Shoppe was even more imperative than both stopping for several drinks and stopping in at the comic book store that everyone knows. When I found a copy of Goodnight Rhonda Lee while studiously exploring the CD racks, the delight of buying a Jersey girl’s album at one of my favorite music stores in the state was not far behind.

That delight just kept growing the more I listened to an album that is still occupying prime real estate in my 2006 Santa Fe’s six-disc player almost a year and a half later. I mean it when I say that I really cannot over-emphasize how much I love this album because it’s the context “Brokedown Luck” deserves.

It’s also a comparative newcomer to the musical menagerie of my iPod; for a song I didn’t even know existed two years ago to inspire such joy of instant, thrilled recognition like only the most well-loved and most-listened-to songs can in the scrambled context of alphabetical happenstance, it’s gotta be something special. And, like that time I logically knew one of my favorite George Harrison songs was nearing the front of the queue but was still squealingly excited when both versions popped in to say hullo, being treated to a song I love as much as “Brokedown Luck” and that feels familiar in only the way a song that needs to be played on repeat a few times every time you hear it can be, it was like stumbling on a little oasis of homecoming amid so many songs I have forgotten or don’t know as well, or that haven’t had the same chance to endear themselves to me or, admittedly, are just filler (because, yeah, in thousands of songs I otherwise have some kind of affinity for or attachment to, there are some inevitable duds). Plus, it put me in a mood where that same luck of the alphabetical draw meant the Dead’s “Brokedown Palace” immediately followed, which might be one of my favorite musical segue ways of this project so far.

I mean, yeah, I could go on about that horn section and those lyrics and just how fucking cool this song sounds, but all I really want to do is play it a few more times and then have it stuck in my head for a week. Because no matter how much I enjoy raving about the music I adore the hardest, it’s always way better just to crawl inside it for a little while and enjoy the treat of infinite-repeating a track that warrants an involuntary but enthusiastic “Ooohhh, I loooove this song!”

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