Grace Potter and The Nocturnals

I couldn’t help thinking about the movie “Almost Famous” as I listen to the new album from Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. Maybe it was Potter’s glamorous vintage fashion choices or the fact that the guys in her band have the kind of hair that rock musicians sported in 1973. These guys have great flowing locks and serious mustaches, not to mention tight fitting jeans with big belt buckles and shirts so snub they might burst open at any moment to expose even more soft tufts of manly mane. Then again, it could be the kind of rock this quintet produces. If ever a band belonged in the glorious days of rock radio’s heyday it should have been Grace Potter and The Nocturnals.

From the opening grunts and grinding guitar of “Paris (Ooh La La)” it’s obvious this is music firmly roote d in American blues rock. Like a latter day Grace Slick or Ann Wilson, Potter comes blasting out of the speakers, bold, sexy, and demanding like a woman possessed. “Oasis” offers a bit more subtlety with emphasis on the beating base drum, reggae influenced bass line and rhythmic guitar. “Goodbye Kiss” digs a little deeper into reggae rhythms, pairing them up with bluesy harmonica.

“Medicine” takes us back to that rock and blues sound and seductive lyrical content and kitten-esque yipping. This was to be the original title track back when the album was being produced by T. Bone Burnett. Those sessions were shelved and Mark Batson was brought in to complete the project. It’s hard to say how Burnett’s approach might have sounded but what is clear is Batson’s focus on no frills sensibilities. My guess is the band sounds pretty much the way they do on stage as they do on this recording.

There have been a few changes within the band. Bassist Catherine Popper, formerly of Ryan Adam’s Cardinals, joins the band as well as rhythm guitarist Bernie Yurco. However good the band is, Grace Potter is the selling point. She writes all songs, with occasional input from other band members, she plays piano, Hammond b3 organ, and both acoustic and electric guitar. She can growl and scream and belt out songs with the best of the girl rockers but she’s also adept of dialing it back for a ballad like “Color.” Somehow you get the feeling that this girl hasn’t wandered too far from her Vermont roots. She isn’t showy, she just delivers the goods the way a good ‘70’s rocker would.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)