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Midnight Sounds 

Grace Potter glows with and without The Nocturnals

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals play Century Center on July 20. Photo by Williams + Hirakawa.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals play Century Center on July 20. Photo by Williams + Hirakawa.

Grace Potter has had a wide and varied career so far, and she's only 33. Whether it is her solo career, her work with The Nocturnals, or her collaboration with The Flaming Lips, Potter is a dynamic and powerful vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. The most surprising thing about Potter, though, is how different her sound is from album to album. Even though her voice is always consistent and lovely, her style is unpredictable.

Grace Potter and The Nocturnals formed in Waitsfield, Vermont, in 2002. Potter, drummer Matt Burr, and guitarist Scott Tournet initially self-produced their own records and toured festivals, primarily with jam bands. Potter self-released two solo albums, 2002's "Red Shoe Rebel" and 2004's out-of-print and very expensive "Original Soul," before her first record with The Nocturnals.

"Nothing But the Water" was self-released in 2005, right before the band signed with Hollywood Records. The record has Potter shredding on the Hammond organ (which she always keeps secondary to her vocals) but the album itself is much closer to Bonnie Raitt with a dash of Norah Jones' gospel cred. The album is bluesy while also paying tribute to a little soul, funk and country, giving the entire record a timeless feeling.

The Nocturnals' major label debut was 2007's "This is Somewhere," and it almost instantly launched them into a new stratosphere. With songs on "Grey's Anatomy," "American Idol" and "ER" and an incredibly popular single in "Ah Mary," Grace Potter & The Nocturnals were now a known quantity. "This is Somewhere" took a completely different road than "Nothing But the Water." It is primarily uptempo and guitar heavy, while dispensing with the Hammond altogether.

The band's 2010 self-titled album dabbled in roots rock, power ballads, and Southern rock, while 2012's "The Lion The Beast The Beat" saw them going more experimental as they started weaving their electronic influences into their bluesy roots. Throughout the genre changes, Potter's songwriting has remained lyrical, honest and thick with the art of storytelling.

Potter's next release saw her going solo once again with 2015's "Midnight," a genre tightrope walk between dance music, nu-disco, bubblegum pop and hook-heavy singalongs. If the musicianship of the earlier records was what drew in most of the listeners, this might alienate a chunk of the fan base, which would be too bad since "Midnight" is a pop masterpiece. Listening to the album from beginning to end shows how much artistry went into the record without a single second being wasted. This is not a Katy Perry album. Everything that makes Potter brilliant is suffused throughout the album, just in ways not easily found on a first listen.

Grace Potter is still with The Nocturnals, even though we haven't had a record from them in almost four years. As much as I hope they release something new soon, if "Midnight" is where Potter's solo sound is going, then maybe it'll be okay to take their time. She is going through a musical transformation here, and it's one that should be incredibly exciting to witness.

Grace Potter

Wednesday, July 20, 6pm

Century Center, 70 SW Century Dr., Bend


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