Hopefully, Midnight is simply a test spin and not indicative of all Grace Potter intends to achieve.
Sudden stardom can have a damning effect on those who are susceptible to its seduction and charm, particularly when it pulls artists in directions they might have once been reticent to go. Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and even Paul McCartney have all shown that once one leaves the confines of bands that helped nurture early success, it can be a tenuous road taken towards solo stardom. Overconfidence breeds errors in judgement, and without former colleagues to temper overindulgence, it’s often all too obvious that the individual component can falter compared to the sum of all the parts.
Up until now, Grace Potter has avoided falling prey to those temptations, after previously insisting that she occupies no higher pedestal than that of the colleagues that share membership in her band, the one known as the Nocturnals. After all, they all sprung from inauspicious indie roots, specifically, the humble beginnings that a place like Waitsfield Vermont generally has to offer.
Nevertheless, after five albums with the group, Potter has opted to step away from her communal combo and strike out on her own. It’s not surprising after all; a picturesque performer, her stirring, soulful vocals command instant attention, as well as the focus of nearly every outside observer. Even while retaining her day job, she’s occasionally stepped outside the band’s confines, contributing songs to films and television soundtracks, making various high profile guest appearances -- she’s shared the spotlight with the Rolling Stones and Gov’t Mule -- and generally made herself available to the paparazzi when ever opportunities permit.
Still, there’s no greater indication of her desire for solo stardom than that of Midnight, an album that finds her name alone on its banner with no sign of the Nocturnals otherwise sharing the marque. Soundwise, it’s an appropriate move; Potter’s assertive style and forthright delivery would like make equal billing with what would essentially become simply a backing band seem ludicrous and impractical. Likewise, it’s also clear that these songs serve mainly to project Potter’s presence and define her essence as a prime blues belter pure and simple.
That’s a double edged proposition however. While Potter’s never sounded more assured, many of the songs are simply serviceable although not quite strong enough to ensure a status that could be considered classic. Didactic rockers like “Hot to the Touch”, “Alive Tonight” and “Look What We’ve Become” may make a formidable impression, but Potter’s constant wailing about unfaithful lovers, the ache of heartbreak and repeated remorse tend to get a bit brusque when served over the course of an entire album. She can also be acerbic, an approach that tends to negate the more sensitive persona she portrayed early on. There’s no doubt she’s adept at creating a soulful impression; her aching vocals on “The Miner” and “Let You Go” offer basically all the proof needed. However more often than not, her intent seems to be simply as rowdy and rambunctious as possible, thereby negating the more subtle nuances she was once known to possess.
Hopefully, Midnight is simply a test spin and not indicative of all Potter intends to achieve. A good launching point, it will hopefully find her building from here.