With Second Lovers, 9 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, 713-862-3838 or www.fitzlivemusic.com.
Nicole Atkins' latest LP Mondo Amore finds the New Jersey "pop" singer-songwriter diving deep into something dark and painful, almost mangled — all of which, true to form, she delivers with a transcendent grit not unlike the old blueswomen she seems to carry inside. These are very tough-minded, brave performances, bound to split opinion on whether Atkins goes too far over the obsessive edge in her search for some kind of perspective on the pitiless storms of loss and disillusionment she's had to confront and conquer. This is the sound of the way love feels in our own grim times, and it is, not so paradoxically, enthralling. Atkins' ambitions are blessedly high; she's also guided away from mere rock emo-bathos by the Black Sea, the smart, no-bullshit band that backs her up.