Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals “Nothing But the Water” Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Obsessively accepted as one of their own by the jam band scene, Southern-sounding Vermont natives Grace Potter and the Nocturnals accept said similarities and influence, combining lengthy waves of song with their brand of gospel based rock. And all is lead by the phenomenal 22 year old singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter. Nothing But The Water lends itself a number of critical associations ranging from Big Brother & The Holding Company to Bonnie Raitt while weaving in and out of a Southern baptism, bathed in organ and rhythmic power.

“Ragged Company” is the blues. It is a self-questioning, demoralizing song that identifies a frame of mind suitable for depression… i.e.: the blues. Something that is strange accompanies the album, however, that I cannot identify as either a trait of traditional gospel, blues or Southern rock music. Potter’s songs translate restless love affairs gone wrong in one setting, a mucky summer’s day. A day where the sun beats as hard as the thought of being without the one you love. A day where the humidity is muted by the passion that burns between a pair who love one another just enough that they forget how much they hate.

Or maybe it’s The Norcturnals and their sun-bleached rhythms that lead the listener into and endless state of lazy afternoon enjoyment. Either way, Nothing But The Water finds its roots in a state of mind rather than a set of arbitrary musical influences, too obvious to take serious.

It is however, the simplicity to much of the album in which the album finds its neglect towards disparity. Though an excellent band of musicians, Potter and her Nocturnals influence and repetition fall prey to the fallacy of the jam band. That being that the whimsical looping ventures of musical bliss are something heavenly accepted when often they fall into rock and roll grey area. Not to say that Potter’s amazing voice and skill aren’t well represented, but it isn’t completely uncovered from the blues overcast that holds it back. The simple rhythms, bends and bottlenecks that are so beautiful, hold the band back from finding something truly experimental. Something, the rare jam band might be looking for.

Possibly, however, “Nothing But The Water (II)” is what this band was ultimately looking for. It’s organs drive, and Potter’s voice sounds stronger and fuller than ever before. An actual guitar solo intertwines itself with the bouncing ranges of the lively keys as the track comes full circle and winds itself to its boundaries before exiting quietly with a gospel march. And just as the sun sets on Nothing The Water it becomes almost funny to imagine a couple of restless lovers calmed and quieted, rocking on the front porch watching the day come to an end. And if Potter ever sees that day truly end, it might just take the burning ache her music possesses with her.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]