In today’s music scene, there is Adele and then there’s everyone else, especially when it comes to female vocalists. We can now confidently add Grace Potter to the top echelon of the “everyone else” category. My girlfriend best summed it up when she heard Grace sing by saying, “She was born in the wrong decade.” Grace’s incredible voice along with a great band have created more memorable tunes. With “The Lion The Beast The Beat”, they have given us another good, but not great album, with a few incredible songs on it.
2010’s self titled album brought Grace Potter and the Nocturnals more acclaim and more notoriety and “TLTBTB” (which I’ll affectionately dub the new album, is more of the same for Grace and the band and should provide more for fans to love. This album, however, isn’t likely to create any new fans of the hard rocking and smooth singing songwriter.
The album starts with perhaps it’s best song, the title track, a hard rock anthem that does very unique things with lyrics and music playing off of each other. When Grace croons, “I found the heart of a lion, in the belly of the beast,/ And I held it in my hands, I could feel, I could feel, feel the beat,” the bass drum kicks in with the beat and turns this song into an incredible song to start an album with. It’s got everything you could want in a rock song. It’s also, to jump a few steps ahead, closely tied to the last song, “The Divide.” These songs were clearly chosen to bookend the album and that was a very wise choice. While the first song starts with a confident knowledge of something accomplished, the last song has Grace belting “If I don’t go, how will I ever know what’s on the other side?/ I can’t tell the wheel from the road or the sea from the sky,/ I gotta find, gotta find, find the divide.” The juxtaposition of the to ideas and the journey from confidence to confusion, from direction to self-doubt is what gives the album an identity.
One of the songs that shows the latter side of the album and is one that most highlights Grace’s vocals is “Stars.” It’s a song about loss and dealing with loss. It’s incredibly written and sung and it’s also one of the saddest songs you’ll ever hear from a rock band, partially from the lyrics, but mostly from Grace’s heartfelt vocals. When she hits the last “I can’t look at the stars, they make me wonder where you are,” you’ll think you’re listening to a 90s diva and you may have tears in your eyes.
Every once and a while in this business, a lyric or a run or a held note will catch you and make the whole song worth while. This album has “Parachute Heart”, a song that talks about a “skydive love affair, doomed from the very start” and has Grace singing what feels like a very personal song and how to deal with the feelings that come from that.
The album has a few throw away songs, but even in those, Grace manages to shine through with powerful vocals that hit all the right notes and in the perfect way. Her voice is a thing to behold, the kind of thing that you build a band around and craft songs especially for, which is exactly what’s happened here with good results.