Music Musings: Grace Potter And The Nocturnals

I first heard about Grace Potter and the Nocturnals when I saw a half hour show featuring them on VH1 earlier this year. I was pretty excited to check out their self titled record which came out this year. I’m a big fan of their rock sound with heavy blues and country (maybe more accurately labeled as southern) influences, though I was a little bit disappointed in the record for not kicking serious ass throughout and maybe blowing its load a little early. I’ll get to more of that in a minute. The band got a pretty huge exposure boost over the weekend thanks to their awesome performances on VH1’s Divas Salute the Troops (check out my favorite segments here, here, here and here).  It’s well deserved in my opinion. First off, you don’t see a lot of legit rock bands around in big leagues anymore and second, none of them have a strong, sexy woman singing and playing the gee-tar like Grace here.

I knew next to nothing about the band before writing this post, but here’s a few choice tidbits I dug up on the nets. The band consists of Grace Potter on vocals, guitar, organ and anything else she wants, Matt Burr on drums, Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco on guitar and Catherine Popper bass, though she didn’t appear on the Divas show, anyone know why? They got together in 2002 and have put out three records so far (2005’s Nothing But The Water, 2007’s This Is Somewhere and this year’s self titled record), plus Potter put out a solo record in 2004 called Original Soul. After touring in support of bands like the Dave Matthews Band and Government Mule they built up a pretty big fanbase in the jam band scene. There was even talk of Potter collaborating with T-Bone Burnett but that project was apparently shelved in favor of the group’s 2010 album I’m listening to right now. Hopefully someone will dust that project off at some point, maybe sooner rather than later to capitalize on their newfound popularity.

As I sit here listening to the self titled record again for probably the fifth or sixth time, I think I came at it from the wrong angle upon first listening. See, the original VH1 special I saw seemed to be packed wall to wall with ballsy rock songs like “Paris” but the record itself has a more laid back, southern blues vibe to it which makes it perfect to listen to while working, though maybe not driving. When I drive, I like to rock out and sing along, banging on the steering wheel like it’s the finest of drum kits and there are surely tracks on this record that facilitate such behavior, but the slower tracks like “Oasis” or “Low Road” tend to slow things down. Now, those aren’t bad songs, but just bad driving songs (for me at least). After the first few listens, most of which I believe were in my car, I walked away feeling disappointed. I thought this was gonna be a rock record, partly based on my viewing experience, but also because of how strong and amazing of a rock song “Paris” is. I heard that song and expected more of the same, but that’s not the case as the record has all kinds of musical influences that it wants to tell you about.

Take “One Short Night” for example. This was a song I wasn’t super into the first few times around, but I find myself a little obsessed with it this time (along with just about every other track, I think this record will be on repeat for a while). The album version’s a little softer and more mellow than the live clip above, but you get the general idea with the fast, yet melodic strumming of the guitar and lyrics about cheating on a lover with a stranger. It’s a great song that tells a story and a sad one at that.

Enough with the sadness. How freaking sexy is this band? Potter’s got a real Tina Turner thing going with her awesomely short skirts and dressed and why not? She’s an attractive woman in a kick ass rock band, why not flaunt it? I would. But, her band’s no group of slouches either, especially if you have a thing for that long haired and bearded look from the 60s and 70s. I’m no expert in what attracts women to men, but I’m sure there’s ladies out there who would find these guys irresistible. Popper’s got it going on too and she represents in the long line of sexy lady bass players like Nicole Fiorentino, Melissa auf der Maur, Kim Gordon and Tina Weymouth. It can’t be easy rocking out in high heels. More often than not, that sexuality comes through in the records too most obviously with the lyrics and Potter’s bluesy way of singing but also in the raw rock and roll riffs and thumping bass/drum combo. From the videos I’ve seen, they carry that presence over to their stage shows in a big bad way. I’d like to see them live, but I think the best venue for them would be a hot, smoke-filled honky tonk in the middle of the night where everyone has a good buzz going.

Thanks to the Divas special and the performances therein, I metaphorically dug out my copy of the CD (meaning, I turned on my iPod) and gave it a few more listens which have turned me into a big fan of the record once again which makes VH1 doubly responsible for me liking this band. I would suggest this record for anyone who likes good old rock and roll who also doesn’t mind some country and blues influences. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of GP&TN to bands of the 60s and 70s to which I would agree, but I would note that listening to this record is like digging up a long lost album from that time period, but not a greatest hits. By which I mean, don’t go in, like I did, expecting a big huge record with lots of rocking tunes, but instead a well thought out journey from rock to soul to blues to country with lots of stops along the road and hops from one genre to the other. If you dig the tracks I’ve shown clips for on this post, then I think you’re pretty well prepared for the record itself. It’s too bad I already made my Christmas list up because I would have definitely added the albums I don’t have had I listened to the record again just a few weeks ago. Oh well, maybe I’ll get some gift cards.

3 thoughts on “Music Musings: Grace Potter And The Nocturnals

  1. Caught the same “Divas”; and WOW! They’ve taken Grace outa the bluejeans she seemed so comfortable in, lightened her hair,… hey, I’m all for that; it works and I think they started most of that back around “Tiny Light”. As for the “gee-tar”. No doubt, she can play some, but her strength is the B3. But they’ve got to get her out front and sell her. So what do they (they being “Hollywood Records” owned by Disney) do, they setup a monochromatic icon from the hair to the heels to the “Gibson Flying V” (kinda brings back memories from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road / Bennie and the Jets), and… watch the guitar work. They’re trying to steal a page from the Vai manual. But it’s staged. everything is a single-barre, they’ve retuned the guitar so that its all one finger. Watch the changes I-V-IV-ii. And where is bassist Catherine Popper? I liked GP&TN before Hollywood Records, and now Grace has exploded into sexy with a capitol “X”, and then with the passing of the mantle from “Heart” > GP&TN but I also wonder in the back of mind “is this another Disney exploitation”. I don’t want to see the “Disney recipe” on this one. But I’ve never seen Grace “Hotter”.

    1. I just caught the video on VH1 again this morning and see what you’re saying about her playing with one finger, I hadn’t noticed it because my attention was…elsewhere. Makes sense fro a rhythm guitar player to me, though. Walking around on those shoes looks difficult enough, why worry about finger placement?

  2. I just had the spur-of-the-moment opputunity to see them live and I am so glad I didn’t turn down the ticket! I naturally a home-body, so this type of event didn’t suit me when I was first contemplating… As far as musical taste goes I lean naturally toward the bluesy-rock and I could not be happier that I have finally discovered the amazingness of GP&N. You are right that Grace is a total badass. She and her band didn’t take a single break during the three and a half hour show. Grace and Catherine were in silettos to boot! Rockstars, pure rockstars.

    P.S. And as far as what gets the ladies going… 😉 Scott (and the other menfolk, but mainly Scott) has that whole 70’s era look going. I was diggin’ it. A lot.

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