Album Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

The 26-year-old, leggy Grace Potter returns with a third album. The self-titled, Mark Batson produced record features more of the country-fried twang, hard rocking blues, and soulful riffs that make Potter click. Her band is in top form, the guitar duo of Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco, lead and rhythm respectively, form a tight attack, expanding on their messy, blues-based solos with tighter, aggressive licks that spiral around Potter’s feisty vocal phrasings with incredible accuracy. Bassist Catherine Popper of The Cardinals fame and hippy drummer Matt Burr hold the rhythm section in place, with Potter skillfully laying it down on piano and B-3.

“Paris (Ooh La La)” opens the record as a Katy Perry counter-anthem, with Potter taking authoritarian-like control, before breaking down into feminine glory: “If I was a man I’d make my move/If I was a blade I’d shave you smooth/If I was a judge I’d break the law/If I was from Paris I would say/Oooh la la la la la.”

“Oasis” is one of the stand out tracks here. Introspective lyrics, melodic guitar lines, plenty of hooks, and fiery progression show potential early on, there’s even a delicate My Morning Jacket-inspired outro. But right when you think Potter is headed down the path of expansion and progression, making claim to her title as Rolling Stone’s “Best New Band of 2010,” she pulls back the reigns, landing in all too familiar 70’s rock radio territory with “Medicine”, “Only Love”, “Money”, “Hot Summer Night”, and so on. These tracks probably translate wonderfully live, where Potter and her band really shine, but the bland, mid-tempo rockers fail to grab the listener’s attention with anything fresh or envelope pushing. After one or two listens, the album is bound for eternal shelf life.

The mellow, reggae-infused “Goodbye Kiss” and the Stevie Nicks-inspired “Tiny Light” are decent slow numbers, with some interesting background tid-bits here and there: blushing organ lines, electric sitar effects, bright choruses, etc. And “Colors” is in the running for best track of the album with a beautiful piano melody, legato guitar blips, and soaring vocals from Potter – the song truly showcases her singer-songwriter potential, but occasionally broaches into cheesy power-ballad territory.

So this isn’t the landmark Potter record we were hoping for. Shoot, it’s probably not even her best work to date (see: Nothing But the Water). But with a powerful live show and a perpetually touring band (not to mention those lovely legs), there’s no doubt she’ll be traipsing around the music world for the foreseeable future, with plenty of jams and road-trip records taboot.


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