By Trevor Pour
Touted by many as the greatest Green Mountain State export since Phish or Ben & Jerry's, depending on your tastes, Grace Potter makes a convincing case for that honor with the beautiful release Nothing but the Water (ragged company records). When a local talent jumps from playing before small crowds at Vermont community colleges to playing at sold out venues with Trey Anastasio and the Wood Brothers within just a few years, you know you've got something special on your hands. It's difficult, actually, to listen or watch this CD/DVD double album without the feeling that this may be only the tip of a very large iceberg for the Nocturnals.
Grace is the kind of rare talent that only arises where passion and natural ability meet and are fused by an absolute devotion to one's craft. Five minutes with this DVD confirm that Grace holds nothing back from her performances. Her emotive and visceral voice, especially evident on "Ragged Company" and "Treat Me Right," draws clear and deserved comparisons to Janis Joplin, but I'd classify her music as a distinctive rocked-out country/folk blend. Sure, she's got elements of that classic blues rock and a recurring lyrical theme of broken relationships indicates a deeply personal connection to her music, but we're not really looking at a tortured soul like Joplin here. Grace and the Nocturnals are a young band enjoying their career, laughing and smiling throughout their high-energy performance.
Nothing but the Water is a great introduction to the Nocturnals, blending a studio album recorded at Goddard College's 150-year-old Haybarn Theatre with a live performance DVD provided by Vermont Public Television. With a well-balanced crew of Grace (vocals, Hammond, piano, Wurlitzer, resonator bass), Matt Burr (drums/percussion), Bryan Dondero (upright, electric, resonator bass), and Scott Tournet (vocals, acoustic, electric, resonator guitar), a broad range of sound emerges from both the live and studio settings. While most of the album takes on a heavy country-rock feel, the Nocturnals aren't afraid to try different styles, like the straight bass-heavy blues of "2:22" or the electronic classic rock "Sweet Hands." The title track closes out the album with a fast-paced and catchy gospel jam with Grace slamming away on her Hammond, but not before the inspired and personal tracks such as "Below the Beams," an instrumental composition likely referring to their history-laden recording studio at Goddard. Fans of all styles, from country to bluegrass to jambands to alternative rock, will find something to appreciate in Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
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