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I looking down at a somber Bellows Falls, the view dotted with storm clouds. From my perch, high on a mountaintop, the Connecticut River Valley and the roll of the Green Mountains look sinisterly peaceful, their quiet villages protected under a blanket of mist.

Behind the crags that support me, there a scene that is not so quiet. A dark haired, bearded gentleman of tall height and average build is running across a meadow with a hatchet, occasionally howling or exclaiming indistinctly, as the rain beats down his worn cowboy boots.

He drops branches on top of damp leaves next to a makeshift fire pit, turns to me with wild eyes and a mischievous grin, and hollers, as the wind whips strands of hair about his face, going to do this right. This is going to be a good one. could have added a and it would have been perfect.

At the moment it hard to believe that the hatchet wielding maniac who resembles a preteen boy exploring the dream reaches of his own backyard is the same man I met a year prior, one who donned shiny black pants, a red silk shirt and large white sunglasses, in true rock star mien, for a headlining spot at Gathering of the Vibes directly prior to Crosby, Stills and Nash. At the moment, he is not Scott Tournet, lead guitarist and founding member of national sensations Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. He is an energetic Vermont country boy. And he seems to be having the time of his life.

Ironically enough, Tournet didn engage in much camping, hiking or general outdoor falderal during his years growing up in Chester, nor later in Waitsfield when he moved into the communal complex that became the band home, nor later still in Burlington. He was much more content to strum his guitar and explore inner reaches than the outer. Despite his image as a throwback rocker to the raucous days of Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, and Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company, he could actually be considered quite cautious.

kayak? he asked incredulously when I implored once. sounds like something you turn over in. this is a special day. Tournet rented a car and drove the 2 1/2 hours from Burlington to Bellows Falls with previous considerations of hitchhiking thrown about when he discovered that a friend would be conducting this interview in anticipation of Grace Potter and the Nocturnal set at Mountain Jam this weekend, rather than an anonymous voice over a phone. With the advent of their expected breakout album (the self titled third LP) on Hollywood Records arriving June 8, and entering headlong into the recognition of many years toil, we decided that a more genuine story could be told one that can only be told through kindred knowledge and observation.

So, naturally, I suggested we hike to a mountain peak in the rain armed with blueberries and champagne, a tarp and twine for the assemblage of a fort to keep dry, fire starter sticks and a hatchet for woodcutting, and handed him the blade and a sack and suggested he act the part of Paul Bunyan. He agreed.

Despite an edging in of fame occasional glitz, it seems that the desire for genuineness inherent in the Vermont character has not left him. And after two hours of determinedly stoking the fire that could while waxing philosophical about the emergence of in his home state, he finds himself crouched on a rock and listening to the rain beat on a tarp roof as night fell, telling me with earnestness, rock roll there a constant balance of it being the most important thing in the world and a total joke. And somewhere in between is where a great show happens. It a balance of realizing that you just up there shaking your ass, entertaining people. It really not that important. But at the same time you must believe wholeheartedly in its importance so you can empty your soul into it. in Waitsfield and Burlington, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a band that has been beating tour pavement since 2004, though just this March were ironically featured in Rolling Stone as one of the New Bands of 2010. Their sound is forceful and blues rock saturated, though Tournet divulged that they began as a quiet, Bonnie Raitt flavored group that played to professors at libraries and art galleries. They spent many years as the archetypal rootsy band that donned T shirts and jeans onstage, with Potter sensuality naturally coming through in her gyration heavy singing performances, though now Potter has a proclivity for sequined minidresses, the men wear tuxedo pants and clusters of roses adorn each microphone.

There seem to be contradictions in place in the evolution of this band, the cause of some high voiced complaints among the music industry peanut gallery. Or, perhaps, their story is just that a pure and unadulterated evolution that Tournet and fellow members do not have to answer for.

Tournet and I met backstage in Connecticut during the preflight check and subsequent launch of last year directly vertical madness. This included a new lineup amid long simmering band turmoil, a Bonnaroo performance that caused their label to scrap Potter solo project with T Bone Burnett and focus on a full band ruckus with hip hop and R producer Mark Batson, a jeans onstage image upgrade, and the distinct click of rising above an endless plateau of for as industry credentials.

The band previous incarnation was a jammy outfit that toured with Gov Mule, Dave Matthews Band and the Black Crowes, and some fans wonder if the new sexualized image and working with Dr. Dre, Eminem and Beyonce producer (Batson) is the beginning of the end of real rock roll for their favorite bluesy raconteurs.

In truth, the band had wanted to shed the limiting shroud for some time.

get looped into the and aesthetic a lot, says Tournet. analog and handmade sound of that music is like a warm, inviting house to me, where I feel, could live here. We love that stuff, but we don want to be stuck there. We really into bands like My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Spiritualized and Radiohead. Things that are now. We don want to be a throwback band. We trying not to be the Black Crowes, even though they a cool band. I like to be a little more than that. Potter artistic leader who can reset the parameter, Tournet says with a proud nod jumping at the chance to expand the style and dynamism of her compositions with a new producer, allowing the band what Tournet calls most freeing and creatively fanciful recording experience we have ever had.

went in for a five day session with Mark, to flesh out some songs and just experiment. Our chemistry with him was off the charts, and Mark felt comfortable to up the ante with us. On the last day of the session, which incidentally was my birthday, we had a little celebration. Mark brought a chair out and told me to sit. Suddenly a snake dancing woman comes out and starts to dance very seductively, and wraps this huge python around me. I was terrified, but didn move an inch. The entire room was speechless. Mark just laughed and laughed he wanted to shake us up. Needless to say, the bar was definitely raised that night and we signed on for a full month recording run, which became our disc. Mark showed us to be fierce and do whatever came natural to us artistically. Basically, he injected the sex into the record. Potter injected the sex onstage.

is an absolute myth that the record label told us to ourselves, Tournet reveals. has wanted to be the consummate glamorous frontwoman since she was a little girl. She has photos of herself dressed for school in tutus and makeup. If that what you want, then do it. She seized the opportunity. mountaintop fire is not shedding its inhibitions this evening and blazing, perhaps dampened by the fresh wetness of the air. But Tournet certainly sheds layers of rock lore, of which Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have been beset lately. And on the eve of a powerful album that captures a band at the precise moment of self realization and ascendancy a difficult feat in an industry so fractured along various lines of evolutionary tactics; in effect, seeking its own identity the listening public should welcome and not turn away such heroes. At least, I suppose, that would be the Vermont thing to do.
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