Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

RIYL: Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

This is technically the band’s fourth studio album, but the eponymous release marks a new era for the group. Former bassist Bryan Dondero has been replaced with Catherine Popper (formerly with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals), and this change has created a new synergy for the band. Popper helps balance the gender dynamic with her harmony vocals and she drives the songs higher with her superior jam skills on the bass. Rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco has also been added to the lineup, helping lead guitarist Scott Tournet, drummer Matt Burr and keyboardist/guitarist Potter to embiggen their sound, as they’d say on “The Simpsons.”

The album is a showcase for Potter’s dynamic vocals and melodic rock style, but it also feels like a coming-out party for what in hindsight will probably be viewed as the band’s classic lineup. Potter has her mojo working from the start in “Paris (Ooh La La),” a high-energy sexual rocker. “Oasis” comes down a notch, but then builds back up as Potter’s voice and Popper’s bass seem to sync in with each other. “Medicine” cranks it back up with a another blast of down and dirty groove rock where Potter sings about a mesmerizing gypsy type of woman not unlike herself.

Lead single “Tiny Light” shows off the new lineup at its best. The overall sound conjures visions of Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac, before blasting into the stratosphere with a big jam driven by Popper’s dynamic bass line. The song also features some of Potter’s best lyrics, which acknowledge the chaos of the early 21st century but ultimately lead to an uplifting catharsis. The song also gives a snapshot of the band’s live power with the jam at the end, where Tournet rips a sonic blast of lead guitar and Potter belts it out to the extreme. Potter’s softer side shines on piano-driven ballad “Colors,” where her delicate vocals dedicated to the twilight time of day are sure to melt hearts. “Only Love” provides a another high-energy blast of skillfully layered blues rock, a sound that is the band’s bread and butter.

The second half of the album isn’t quite as strong as far as memorable songs, although the band’s sound remains vibrant. “One Short Night” is a catchy number with a funky flavor about a questionable night out, while “Low Road” explores a bluesier territory with Potter still shining on vocals. “Hot Summer Night” is another sexy rocker similar to “Medicine” and “Only Love.” It would be nice to see Potter explore a wider variety of sonic flavors, but there’s no doubt this is one she’s very good at. “Things I Never Needed” closes out the album with a contemplative and endearing ballad. The first half of the album gets four stars, but the second half gets only three, so that’s three-and-a-half overall. This is a very good album, but the next one should be a true classic.

The band’s five-star live show is where they shine the brightest. When Potter & the Nocturnals played at Austin’s SXSW Festival in March, they highlighted the new material and knocked it out of the park with high-energy, jam-heavy performances in both an evening headliner show and a day-party performance. The band was good in 2008, but this version is at a higher level. Whoever orchestrated Popper’s entry into the band on bass should win rock ‘n’ roll’s “general manager of the year” award for the transaction. (Hollywood Records 2010)

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals MySpace page


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