April 17, 2010 was Record Store Day and more than 1,400 independent record stores across the globe participated in the third celebration of the unofficial holiday. Record Store Day brings together independently owned record stores, artists, and music fans to celebrate the art of music and the excitement of seeking it out in non-commercialized, listener friendly, often dusty and dark confines of local record stores. Exclusive vinyl records, CD releases and various promotional products are distributed and many artists around the world make in-store appearances or perform live for shoppers. Record Store has continued to grow since its inception in 2008.
Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has recognized Record Store Day for the last two years and 2010 brought some high profile participation from artists also with Alice In Chains and Slash making in-store appearances. Other artists also participated like Frank Black, Angie Stone, Jason Derula, Mastodon, Josh Ritter, HIM, Emmylou Harris, Exene Cervenka, and many others. There were over 150 special limited edition releases for Record Store Day including collectible items from Them Crooked Vultures, Soundgarden, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Devo, Modest Mouse, Jimi Hendrix, The Flaming Lips, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, Gogol Bordello, Built to Spill, Gorillaz, The Rolling Stones, Terrible Things, Ani DiFranco, Hold Steady, Muse, Credible Threats, Josh Ritter, and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals hail from Vermont and garnered some national attention in 2007 with the release of their This Is Somewhere album and subsequent fall tour opening for Gov’t Mule. Their earthy, breathy rock and roll has been featured in television shows like All My Children, Kyle XY, One Tree Hill, Brothers & Sisters, and Grey’s Anatomy and their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” is featured in the new Alice In Wonderland movie. The band has been touring steadily and building its audience as a result. The touring has honed their skills as musicians and many songs take on new life in the live setting. Not surprisingly, the band chose to participate in Record Store Day by playing live at Record Day founder Chris Brown’s Bull Moose store in Scarborough, Maine, and by issuing their 2008 recording “Live From Skowhegan” on CD for the first time. The EP was previously released in digital format only on iTunes and the Record Store Day version includes the bonus track “Big White Gate” which was not available on iTunes.
The live EP was recorded at the Opera House in Skowhegan, Maine on June 27, 2008 at what many fans consider the best Grace Potter & The Nocturnals show of 2008. The recording is raw but clear. It provides an audible sense of the enthusiasm in the venue and the band seems to feed of the crowd’s energy. On a few songs, grace provides a soulful layer of Hammond organ chords for guitarist Scott Tournet as he solos economically with grace and precision. His style is not like Jimmy Vaughan, but like the blues master, Scott knows when not to play. He does not try to fill every moment with notes. The rhythm section of Bryan Dondero on bass and Matthew Burr on drums compliment Ms. Potter’s compositions perfectly and bring out the best in even the least memorable songs. At only seven songs, Live At Skowhegan definitely leaves fans wanting more of the band’s rustic ruminations.
Grace Potter has often been compared to other famous women of rock and soul including Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and Chrissie Hynde while her band has been compared to The Black Crowes, The Rolling Stones, and The Band. The comparisons are not without justification but the band is much more than a conflagration of influences. The music is rural, traditional, funky, and soulful. They mix the ingredients to create a unique gumbo that has fans coming back time and time again.
The band is popular on the Jam Band scene which has grown to encompass many styles of music and bands that eschew the schlock and glitz of pop music. Grace and the Nocturnals often stretch out their songs live but without the density and power of the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, or even Widespread Panic. Instead the band incorporates breathing room into the music like the Grateful Dead did so well, but without the meandering jams. The Nocturnals are more concise and let the music float through the air and create its own space. Occasionally the songs lack a strong hook to anchor the music but some, like “Ah Mary” and “Stop The Bus” are infectious and are clear highlights of Live In Skowhegan.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have been blessed by grass roots popularity and word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of going for the brass ring with a major label, hype and payola, they have generated an interest in the band that will sustain a career and not just a hit record or two and then obscurity. If you missed Record Store Day, the EP is still available on iTunes but without the bonus track. Tour dates and more information can be found at www.gracepotter.com. More information about Record Store Day can be found at www.recordstoreday.com.