Review: Rockin’ the Weekend!
Don’t know about where you live, but in our neck of the woods summer’s here and it’s hot. Best thing to do on the weekend is hit the pool or lounge on the patio, pop the top on a cold one and put on a few fresh hot platters.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a Vermont-based band that’s been knocking around for a few years. Their newest, simply titled Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, is a good calling card for those unfamiliar with the band’s take on 1970s style rock, soul, blues and country. The most arresting thing about the band is the frontwoman’s astounding voice – she can rock out in front of a guitar storm on “Paris” or “Medicine,” then she can credibly pull off pop gems like “Goodbye Kiss” or the Fleetwood-Mac flavored “Tiny Light.” Potter even strikes a perfect singer/songwriter pose on the gentle anthem “Colors.” This is a perfect summer record, with a great band playing behind an excellent singer in a style you thought you’d never hear again.
As I said above, it’s the weekend and it’s summer, so I’m going to cut some slack to Mojo, the new album from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. You would think the band’s first album together in eight years would have a little more sparkle. There are no ringing rock anthems, nothing that really sticks in the head after an initial listen. If the songwriting is a little lazy, then the musicianship of the incredible band more than makes up for the shortcomings. Aside from the snarling single “I Should Have Known It,” much of the overlong Mojo is blues rock taken at a leisurely pace. I thought I had put on a Dire Straits album by mistake. But I will give credit to Petty for not repeating himself, and especially for allowing his band to outshine him on this one. Guitarist Mike Campbell delivers one incredible riff after another, and organist Benmont Tench adds the roll and soul to the Heartbreakers’ rock. And the album does grow on you, upon subsequent listens. Give this one to dad for Father’s Day.
With a recording history that spans back to 1971, John Prine certainly has rich catalog from which he can choose songs to play in concert. His new In Person & On Stage is only his third live album from a nearly 40-year career and even the most familiar songs sound fresh and timely as they did when they were first written. Prine resurrects the antiwar “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” and finally gives us a live version of his classic “Paradise,” its gentle message made more urgent by the environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. A number of guest vocalists including Iris DeMent and Emmylou Harris show up when you’d expect (DeMent reprising her duet on “In Spite Of Ourselves,” Harris ably subbing for Bonnie Raitt on “Angel From Montgomery,” another classic). Everywhere there are flashes of Prine’s great sense of humor and deft songwriting – “The Bottomless Lake,” about a vacation gone awry, is a perfect example. Prine is one of America’s greatest songwriters; if you aren’t familiar with his work then In Person & On Stage is a good place to start.
MP3: “The Bottomless Lake” by John Prine