Grace Notes

One of the things I love about music, especially in regards to emerging artists, is it really doesn’t matter at what point you get on the fan bus — as long as you get on. I’ve climbed aboard with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and I have no intention of getting off. This past weekend I picked up the group’s new CD, “This Is Somewhere” and I am smitten. This is smart, contemporary, roots rock that both soothes and challenges.

Potter and company are Vermont-based and formed back in 2004. Their sound has a distinct country feel, but they clearly know how to rock. At 24, Potter is a confident songwriter and a crack musician. She plays guitar, piano and the Hammond B-3. Her, cohorts include lead guitarist Scott Tournet (who can also play a sweet lap steel), drummer Matt Burr and bassist Bryan Dondero — these guys are tight and unafraid to add clever fills and accents to the songs. They support Potter, well, with uncanny grace.

The opening track, “Ah Mary” is about the bravest, and most honest take on American life under George W. since Green Day’s “American Idiot.” The song starts out sounding like a barroom rocker about a hellcat of a woman — she’ll bake you cookies/then she’ll burn your town, — it’s not until then end of the song that Ah Mary is stretched into Ah Mary-ca. It’s a brilliant scorcher played with edge and passion. Best new song I’ve heard this year.

The rest of the CD is equally solid if less ground breaking. Potter can play the romantic and the cynic with equal conviction. Other standouts include “Stop the Bus,” “Mr. Columbus,” and “Lose Some Time.” There isn’t a clunker in the bunch. I pick up everything from shades of Drive By Truckers, Gin Blossoms, and Kathleen Edwards in the songs. Pretty solid company.

This is a word of mouth band despite recent appearances on Good Morning America, and the Late, Late Show. Sure, Hollywood Records can provide some major label push, but it’s people who love and appreciate music that have to spread the word.

Come on, get on the bus with me!

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