Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

If having an abundance of talent, the ability to write and perform fine, sometimes great, songs, and working relentlessly on the touring circuit were enough to bring success in the music business, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals would be a household name.  They started strong and have gotten better over time.  This is a first-class band fronted by an exceptionally strong singer, songwriter and musician.

The band’s 2007 album This is Somewhere opened with the spectacular track “Ah, Mary”.  On the one hand, I don’t think that anything on Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is as good, on the other I think the new album is markedly stronger overall than This is Somewhere.  In my review of the earlier album I described the band as primarily country-oriented with a somewhat thin rock overlay and wished these emphases were reversed.  Grace Potter and the Nocturnals doesn’t do the reversal but it brings the country and rock elements much more in balance with each other which is probably a better idea.  I also noted in the earlier review that my lack of enjoyment of the country aspects of This Is Somewhere reflected my own tastes and that many listeners would probably prefer the band just as they were.  Those listeners might not be as happy with the shift toward rock on Grace Potter and the Nocturnals but I think the balance makes for a stronger album.

Potter sings, writes or co-writes their songs, and plays acoustic and electric guitars, piano and Hammond B3 organ.  Although comparison of the album photos on Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and This is Somewhere might give you the idea that she may be trying to market herself  as a Hot Blonde© in the band’s continued search for the widespread recognition they deserve, all you have to do is listen to the album to know she isn’t this month’s pitch-corrected bimbo with plastic tits & great hair.  Potter’s song craft and musician skills are rock solid and she is a very powerful singer.  Actually, “very powerful singer” doesn’t quite get the idea across – how about King Kong in heels?  Potter can not only rock and roar but she can sell a ballad which gives the band exceptional range.

In addition to Potter the band features Scott Tourney on lead and lap steel guitars, Benny Yurco on rhythm guitars, Catherine Popper on bass and drummer Matt Burr.  As you would expect from a band that tours as hard as this one does, they are a very tight unit that superbly complements and supports Potter in her role as front woman.

The history of popular music is littered with great bands who had everything they needed but who didn’t make it for no discernible reason and ended up giving up in frustration.  Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a great band who have honed their skills the old-fashioned way on stage after stage in club after club.  It must drive them out of their minds every time a group that has been together for a couple of months gets a glowing Pitchfork review and becomes the darlings of the blogosphere for 10 minutes until they are forced to play in front of an audience and it becomes clear they can barely play their instruments, let alone work together as a band.  Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is a very good album from an accomplished professional band.  Listening to it you get the sense that as good as they are, they could get even better.  The world ain’t bad now but it will be better if they achieve a level of success that is commensurate with their ability and reach those heights.

“Paris (Ooh La La) from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

And – please – go to the review of This Is Somewhere and listen to “Ah, Mary”

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06/27/2010 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , ,

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