Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have rarely suffered from a lack of superlatives in their press kit. Other than the band’s self-released and largely unheard debut, 2004’s Original Soul, GPN’s subsequent albums for Hollywood Records (2006’s re-released Nothing But the Water and 2007’s This Is Somewhere) have generally been showered with the kind of praise that a lot of bands would pay a flack to write about them.
GPN might have found a ready audience in the Jam community but the band’s grounding was in the Blues-tinged Classic Rock of the ’70s and with that era’s influence, Potter and the Nocturnals crafted a sound that suggested the Blues-laced verve of Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat, the rootsy Americana roar of Lucinda Williams and the gritty Roots Pop lilt of Edie Brickell.
It’s been almost three years since This Is Somewhere amazed most critics, and the subsequent period has been eventful, to say the least. The band’s songs have shown up in a variety of television shows, they’ve toured relentlessly, opening for the Black Crowes and Dave Matthews Band and, most recently, had their live version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” included on the Almost Alice semi-soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
But things have been slightly unsettled as well; the band announced last spring that its T Bone Burnett-produced fourth album, provisionally titled Medicine, would be released in the fall. But those sessions were shelved and the date pushed to this year. Longtime bassist Bryan Dondero left the band in the midst of all this. But with his departure came the arrival of Ryan Adams & the Cardinals bassist Catherine Popper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco to make GPN a quintet, additions that are all over the band’s eponymous fourth album.
GPN’s rejuvenation (as if they needed one) jumps out of the speakers with the fist pumping “Paris (Ooh La La)” and the slithering, smoldering Blues blast of “Oasis,” while “Medicine” finds Potter grunting with Iggy Pop’s raw sexuality and growling, purring and shrieking with Raitt’s Blues nutkick. The band slows things down to a slow boil on the Reggae-touched “Goodbye Kiss,” the Stevie Nicks-tinged “Tiny Light” and the Rock cathedral hymn of “Colors,” then kicks it back a notch or four with the soulful hipshake of “Only Love” and the shimmery Stax groove of “Money.”
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals might turn out to be the band’s defining work, a fact the group recognized by titling the album after themselves. In the era that Potter and her Nocturnals pattern their work after, this album would signal the deep maturity and understanding of a band with twice as much age and experience. It’s no less than astonishing that these sounds are emanating from a band on their fourth trip to the studio. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have the guts, passion and power to evolve into a 25-year Hall of Fame band, because emotionally they’ve nearly qualified already.