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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Showing posts with label Kate Voss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kate Voss. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Kate Voss Guest Contributer

For Grace Potter, and her band the Nocturnals, reaching the level of success and fame they have now has been a slow, steady race since their creation in 2002. Now, hot off the heels of their most successful album release ever, the band is set to change the face (and sound) of modern music. But, how did this unlikely group of musicians from Vermont become one of the hottest alternative music acts out there?
        Well for starters, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have stood out from the pack thanks to their refusal to confine themselves to any one genre. They’re a little bit country, with some definite old school rock n’ roll thrown in, and a fantastic bluesy quality that has become their signature. They’re able to transcend genres and appeal to listeners far and wide with their foot stomping beats and Grace’s soaring raspy vocals. Potter explained the diverse sound of the band to Pop Matters back in 2010, saying “We’re really dynamic. This band does not do one thing—we do a lot of things. Some people may walk in and hear a song and think, ‘Oh God, I hate this song,’ and the next song that they hear can be their favorite song and change their life forever. It’s really interesting how much we change from song to song. That comes from our band [being] new and still honing our musical sound together. But also there’s a stream-of-consciousness thing with our concerts, I don’t like to stop very much, I don’t like empty space at all. I’m very much into the flow of a show. A show needs to feel like something that doesn’t stop.”
    That honing of their sound started when Grace Potter first met Matthew Burr in a coffee shop on the St. Lawrence University campus in 2002. Matthew approached her after being thoroughly impressed by her set. The two started a duo based on their mutual admiration for each other’s sound and were soon joined by Scott Tournet, thus creating Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. In 2005 the group recorded and released their first album, Nothing But the Water. The album gathered enough attention on Vermont radio that Hollywood Records signed them and re-released the album in 2006.
    The group soon released their sophomore album in 2007, This Is Somewhere, featuring the singles “Apologies” and “Falling or Flying”. To promote their album, the band started making the rounds on the talk show circuit, which helped to introduce them to the American public. They scored a coup in 2010 when they were picked to be featured on the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland covering “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. Later in 2010, the group released their third studio album, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals which featured their biggest hit, “Paris (Ooh La La)”. Hot off the heels of that release, they were asked to write and record the credits soundtrack for the Disney film Tangled, which was released in late 2010. The contribution to Tangled increased the band’s visibility tremendously, as it performed well in the box-office, is a popular streaming option on some websites, and it’s also sold well in the home viewing market.
    Their latest album, The Lion the Beast the Beat proved to be their most successful to date. They kicked off their promotional tour with an appearance on the cult favorite Direct TV’s Guitar Center Sessions in December. The album hit #17 on the US album charts and #2 on the US Taste charts – both new highs for them. Their second single off the album, “Stars” also proved to be their first single to chart in both the US and Canada.
    What makes Grace herself such a likeable figure is both her perseverance (she’s legally blind, unbeknownst to many) and her ability to stay in touch with her roots despite her success. She explained to The Boot her affection for her home state of Vermont: “Those people are my home and every time I come home, it reminds me that there’s something to be said for being in the spotlight but it can never be a whole part of me. So much of myself is consumed with earning my way, doing it myself and never feeling like things are being handed to you. Growing up that way was humbling.“
It just goes to show, that no matter how much fame or how many awards she may win, Grace Potter will always be a small town girl at heart.

Monday, March 3, 2014

St. Louis blues: But not that St. Louis - Kate Voss - Guest Writer

At first glance, it might not seem all that odd that Minard Shattuck is building a growing blues following and carving out a niche for his favorite genre in an historic theater in downtown St. Louis.

But Shattuck’s St. Louis isn’t that St. Louis.

He’s in the middle of farm country, in St. Louis, Michigan, smack-dab in the center of the mitten.

Melding his love of blues music with his entrepreneurial spirit drove Shattuck’s ambitious effort to transform a vacant movie theater into a popular nightspot back in 2007. Inspired by the greats, like B.B. King and Buddy Guy (the latter of whom just performed an excellent set for DirecTV’s Guitar Center Sessions; more details are on his homepage) Shattuck is perhaps not wildly unique, but he’s an inspiration to similar spirits across the country who love blues music but live far-removed from the hotbeds like Chicago and Detroit and that other St. Louis that have traditionally driven the genre.

The fact that Shattuck has made a decent living and successful go at it, though, is pretty impressive.

St. Louis, Mich., is as milquetoast as a town can get – a tiny enclave of just over 7,000 people where the local livestock auction attracts crowds far bigger than those for live music of any kind.

Perhaps best known as the place that made and distributed PBB that was accidently mixed with cattle feed – as depicted in the 1981 Ron Howard film Bitter Harvest – St. Louis, Mich., is still struggling with contaminated water, an EPA Superfund site and a forever-polluted river.

Not the kind of place that lends itself to a rocking blues scene, and, for that matter, not the kind of town with a thriving downtown climate at all, let alone nightlife.

But Shattuck’s venue – known as Center Stage at the Gem – hosted its first summer blues festival in 2007 and now in the midst of its first-ever Winter Blues Series, which features weekend performances by noted regional acts from January through April.

Shattuck’s Winter Blues Series kicked off Jan. 4 with Kev Nichols and Blue Tuesday, the Jackson, Michigan-based blues band that recently made it to the semifinals of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

The 2007 series continued with eight more acts, ending with an April 5 appearance by Louisiana-based bluesman Larry Garner and an April 19 show featuring the Chicago-based Biscuit Miller and the Mix.

A pretty solid blues mix for a tiny town in the middle of Michigan’s farm country.

"It doesn't seem possible that was five years ago," Shattuck told the local newspaper, the Morning Sun, back in 2012. "Larry McCray played and put on a great show. He's been back a number of times since then and we've been pleased to host many other fine blues artists over the years. Five years is a pretty short history, but it's been very rich in talent.”

This summer’s annual St. Louis Blues Festival, slated for July 5-6, features Willie Dixon, the Chicago bluesman, composer and bassist.

Beginning as a one-day event in the midst of the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration, the St. Louis Festival is now a highly-anticipated two-day festival taking up an entire downtown city block.

For more information about the St. Louis Winter Blues Series or this summer 2014 St. Louis Blues Festival, visit:

Kate Voss is a blogger in an entertainment blogger in Chicago with Her favorite blues musicians include John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy.