On the recommendation of a smart friend with similar musical tastes, I recently picked up the latest release by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, This is Somewhere. And boy am I ever not sorry. This is Somewhere is one of those albums that I will listen to again and again. I don't think there is a bad track on it, and I can play it all day and never be annoyed, which speaks volumes about both the quality of the music and the diversity of the sound.
Vocally, Grace Potter sounds a lot like a younger Bonnie Raitt (nods to Frog for that brilliant observation). Over the course of the album, she lends that voice to songs that range from straight-up rock (I particularly like the opener, "Oh Mary") to folkie ("You May See Me" and the Dylan-flavored "Ain't No Time") to sultry pop ("Stop the Bus," which is likely my favorite track on the album) to nearly gospel ("Big White Gate"), and each style is believable. My preferences being what they are, I could stand to hear more folk-style stuff on the album, but I really enjoy the style mix.
The instrumentation is solid if not remarkable. Potter plays piano and some guitar, and she's accompanied by Scott Tournet on lead guitar and occasional harmonica and lap steel, Matt Burr on percussion, and Bryan Dondero on bass. Again, I'm a fan of the folky feel (especially the lap steel and accordion in "Apologies"), but they do a good job with the more straightforward pop and rock tracks as well.
Lyrically, Potter is capable of a phrase that sounds like a knowing grin ("could be all the booze we drank in Austin/could be we're just scared of growing old/could be this ain't no way of living/but there ain't nothing like that rock 'n roll") or a bitter cry ("I sang to my children/before they strayed so far/I sang for my lovers/or a nickel in a tip jar/I never knew Jesus/I never read the good book/but on my day of dying/I'm giving life a second look"). Her songs cover the usual ground of relationships and regrets, with enough naiveté to be believable and enough maturity to keep it interesting ("you got the eyes to look for what you saw/and when you don't win or lose I guess you draw/I had to leave I guess you had to stay/don't come looking babe/'cause if you look to hard/I just might look away"), and there is an undercurrent in everything of friendship and music and good times that reminds me of nothing so much as Janis Joplin. I was shocked to learn Potter is younger than I am--she both writes and sounds like a more seasoned musician.
This is Somewhere is an all-around fantastic album, and one I'll be recommending to anybody who will listen for months. Consider yourselves warned.