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.

Season Finale: Tool Academy 3

I mostly like watching Tool Academy because it shows douchebags getting caught being douchebags. Sometimes some of them learn their lessons, sometimes the girl dumps the tool like she should, but usually the assholes head home with girls who are way too good for them. Hey, wait a minute, is that Robert Downey Jr. between them in that picture? Anyway, this season was pretty crazy with a tool leaving the very first episode and the two finalists being Angelo–the guy who said he doesn’t care if his girlfriend gets an STD because of his cheating, cries constantly AND videotaped another girl he slept with and put it in his tape to get on whatever fake show he thought he was going on instead of Tool Academy and Jacob–a violent, aggressive wrestler wannabe who seemed dead set on fighting with one of the girl tools at every opportunity (I think he had a thing for her). I figured Angelo as a pretty early finalist because of the crying. Now whether it’s real or not, it was still impressive that he cried every. Single. Time. You gotta stay hydrated for that.

Now, before getting into the actual finale, I want to comment on the aforementioned girl tool. She’s a rocker chick who likes to screw around on him and it goes WAY back because her mom’s a madame. His brother (and the rest of America) all hated his tool girlfriend and he was even a minute away from walking out on the show and her. My fists were raised in triumph. Then he came back. And they talked. And he said it was the best conversation he’s ever had with her. It was ridiculous. This chick is trash and he needs to leave her because she’s just keeping him around as an easy lay. Anyone can see it. Man up, brother. You’re like a beaten puppy. You can do better. I do not remember your name.

Anyway, the finale had some pretty funny stuff. The guys both saw pictures of themselves from when they were kids and then yelled at recent pictures of themselves, burned clothing that reminded them of their past lives and freaked the hell out while doing a ropes course (hey, those things ARE scary, but Angelo sounded like Pee Wee Herman up there). At the very end it’s Jacob who wins, but I’m not really sure why. Angelo heads outside and his girl goes home with him. He did seem to change, but he DID do all those horrible things. Jacob didn’t seem to do as many horrible things before getting to Tool Academy, but he also seemed to lie his way through huge parts of the show. “This means more to me than my high school graduation,” he said. Well whatever. Maybe next season will be all lady tools. That’d be interesting. Really, the highlight of each season is that first episode when the d-bags think they’re on some “tropical awesome contest” and then get the shit surprised out of them when it’s revealed they’re on Tool Academy.

Oh, also, I’m pretty uncomfortable with the fact that the blue graduation gowns and hats the finalists wear are the exact same ones my high school wears. I’d post a picture comparison, but that might be more embarrassing than I’m ready for.

Confessions Of A Danger-ish Mind: I Watch Ray J

Yeah, that’s right. It’s true and I’m not proud of it. I blame a lack of good daytime programming and VH1’s unusual decision to play episodes that will be premiering later that night during the day. Oh, plus the show is completely ridiculous in a way very similar to their other dating shows I watch from time to time. Normally, I wouldn’t subject myself from the embarrassment of admitting this in such a public forum, but the episode that will be on tonight was just too funny not to tell people about. I came in with a half hour left, so I don’t know what happened in the beginning, but the part I saw started with Ray talking to Snoop Dogg about the girls! Who doesn’t love Snoop? Soon after that, he went out to the pool area where all his buddies were hanging out with the girls (there are three left at the beginning of the episode) and asks them to come in and talk to him about which one they think he should choose. Instead of actually helping their friend out, the dudes start talking about and then singing a song about one of the girls smashing the homey. For those of you who might not know, that means one of the girls slept with one of Ray’s friends. They’re singing so loudly that the girl in question actually comes into the room and yells at them.

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But that’s not the best part, though I love an impromptu song as much as the next guy. The best part was, while going around the room asking about the girls, Ray all of a sudden says “What do you think Tom Green?” The camera pans up and there the man stands in all his pasty, bearded glory. I’m sure he appeared earlier in the episode, but the way I watched the episode it came as quite an unexpected and hilarious shock. Tom even joined in on the smash the homey song, even though he wanted that particular girl to win. Awesome.