Grace Potter means business. She lets you know from the get go with the first “UH!” on her band’s new self titled album, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. This isn’t some poppy, Adult Alternative record; it’s a gritty, passionate affair with swagger, soul and plenty of classic rock influences.
The opening track, “Paris” kicks things off with a heavy guitar riff and the sleaziest drums this side of Don Henley’s The Long Run days. Singing about getting what she wants, Potter proves that she’s a woman with strength and conviction and knows how to work it. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals is full of songs that have a deep groove and a bit of an edge to them, such as “Oasis” and “Medicine,” which feature the kind of exemplary guitar work you’d expect to hear from the Allman Brothers on any given night. This may come from the Nocturnals’ years of touring, or it could be the new chemistry in the band. For this new album The Nocturnals include lead guitarist Scott Tournet and drummer Matt Burr joined by newer members bassist Catherine Popper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco; Potter covers the piano and organ.
Elsewhere on the record, the band delivers some southern fried soul with “Money, “Hot Summer Night” and “One Short Night,” while the inspirational “Colors” deserves a place on every radio playlist this summer and beyond.
Throughout the album, Potter exhibits one of the most soulful voices in rock and roll, falling somewhere between Bonnie Raitt and Joan Osborne, with a touch of Ricki Lee Jones tossed in for good measure. Each note she sings comes from a place deep in the body; a place few singers have been able to get to. The names Aretha, Tina, Bruce and Bono come to mind when I hear how much Potter puts into her music. Will she and her band achieve the type of stardom that these icons of music did? Only time, and ambition will tell. For now they’ll continue their never-ending tour of small clubs until the general public catches on. I predict that it will only be a matter of time.
Overall production by Mark Batson on Grace Potter & The Nocturnals has a very retro feel. Everything sounds very live, as if the band recorded together and not isolated in sound booths with click tracks playing in their headphones. Each song has a memorable chorus that feels familiar, yet unique in its own way. After the thirteen songs of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals come to end, you may find yourself returning to “Paris” and beginning the journey all over again.
I recall the lazy afternoons of my youth, when we’d walk along the beach and stop in some dive bar for several beers, maybe some wings and excellent music. That’s what Potter and the Nocturnals bring to mind. It’s music from another era transported to the new millennium. Even though their influences are featured throughout, their sound is fresh, especially with so much of what is sold to the general public as music is being created through the computers used to record the artists. There is no auto tune here. These aren’t studio wizard musicians providing the right fills where needed. This is a tight knit band playing music that sounds great coming out of your car speakers or headphones, but will sound even better when it’s blowing you away live.
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