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Potter flexes musical muscle

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals“This Is Somewhere”

With a little luck, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals could become Vermont’s biggest musical export since Phish. Putting the tiny state on the musical map may be a huge task, but the band’s latest release, “This Is Somewhere,” has all the makings of an album that deserves every bit of the attention it gets.

Potter and company have become something of a word-of-mouth success story while still maintaining their indie credibility. Non-stop touring with bands like Gov’t Mule and Taj Mahal have won over a legion of new fans and earned it a place on the stages of both the Bonnaroo Festival and the Newport Folk Festival. Once the quartet honed its chops to a fine houserockin’ edge, they quickly retired to its rehearsal space (aptly called Pottersville) to record the CD that would become “This Is Somewhere.”

Imagine if you stripped out the pop princess side of Kelly Clarkson and added some Black Crowes swagger. You’d have all the makings of GP & The Nocturnals. The Clarkson effect is most evident on “Mr. Columbus,” a song with a hook as strong as a shot of whiskey that only a singer with a room-shattering voice could pull off. Luckily, Grace Potter has just such a voice — one part sexy and three parts Jack Daniels.

One of the standout tracks on “Somewhere” has to be the upbeat “Stop The Bus.” It’s a classic road song complete with a memorable refrain: “Stop the bus and turn the radio up high / Grab the first guitar you see.” The song begs for a twist of the volume knob up around 10.

But just as much of the credit for the smoking sound of Tom Petty must go to The Heartbreakers. Grace Potter also owes a huge debt to The Nocturnals. With Bryan Donero on bass, Matt Burr on drums and Scott Tournret on guitars, the band is the perfect companion to Potter’s big Hammond B3 organ.

Grace Potter has been quoted as saying that she despises the comparisons to Sheryl Crow, but one listen to country twang of “Apologies” or the breathy “You May See Me” tells you that the comment isn’t that far off the mark. Being easy on the eyes certainly won’t hurt Potter’s career, but with the musical muscle to back it up, it’s a deadly combination.

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