Reviews:: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals This is Somewhere

I first heard about Grace Potter from Charles at ashcanrantings. He linked some absolutely chilling live performances that caught my ear. After delving into her catalog, I found her work to be better live than in recorded format, but that is more a credit to her and her band than a slight of her releases. Her voice can be mesmerizing and the Hammond 3 always sounds better when people are attacking it in the heat of the moment. Anyway, I was pretty surprised to see her latest disc in my mailbox and that her name was popping up on a lot of blogs.

This Is Somewhere is probably going to bring Grace and the Nocturnals a lot of attention. I mean, the opening number - Ah Mary - is tailor made for NPR. The song starts with a soulful shuffle as Grace sings about the type of teen you seen in movies. The bitchy kid that takes what she wants and uses anyone she can. But as the pace picks up, you also hear Grace throw in subtle metaphors for a much bigger problem. Ah Mary is Grace's take on the state of America, and the school yard bully is actually the political powers that be in the US. It's an interesting take on the situation, and by making the song so catchy, she has almost guaranteed radio play. When the guitar and piano booms in on the final verse and chorus, Grace is letting her heart pour out about Ah Mary…ca. "She the beat of my heart… she'll be the end of me and maybe everyone."

I'm not sure if the rest of the record matches up to the goodness of the opening track. I like the thumping intro of the rootsy Ain't No Time, but I miss a lot of the energy and edge that you get from the band's live sound. I know a CD isn't supposed to be as frantic and energy filled as a record, but when you are as fantastic live as Grace and her band, it's hard not to notice the change.

Grace shows she is just as comfortable writing a radio friendly ballad like Apologies. This song could be played on radio, TV, or make soundtracks for years to come, but some of the songs drift way to close to the Pink realm, in particular Mr. Columbus. Pardon the pun, but the guitar noodle combined with her singing "we've found the edge of the world" leaves me flat. I know it sounds like I'm badmouthing this effort, but honestly the record does have it's fair share of ups and it actually gets stronger as it progresses. From song six on, Grace and the band barely miss a step.

The gentle pedal steel on You May See Me suits Grace's tender lyrics and the plucked stand up bass nicely. The song adds layer after layer, but not once does the mix feel cluttered. No instrument overstays its welcome, and the result is a song as warming as your favorite sweater . The same can be said about the banjo laced Lose Some Time. The gentle squeaks of her fingers across the frets crafts an intimacy that mirrors her lyrics and falsetto. She varies the pace with some Rait rockers (Mastermind, Here's to the Meantime), but surprisingly, it's her tender side that sounds best. Her ode to the road - Falling Or Flying - is helps end the record on a high note, and you actually believe her when she end the song with the admission - "this won't last, so play every show like it's your last." Sadly, it's that attitude that makes me wish I was seeing her live instead of driving with a CD.

MP3:: Ah Mary

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