Brace yourselves, Grace Potter fans — the Mad River Valley-born singer and songwriter is back in a big way with a stellar new album. “Daylight,” scheduled for release on Oct. 25, is quite possibly her best set yet, a return to form that taps into her earliest musical roots as a prodigious young artist in Waitsfield.
Potter, 36, headlines the ninth edition of her Grand Point North festival, a two-day soiree that has become one of Vermont’s marquee music events. This year’s outing is her second since the birth of her son, Sagan Potter Valentine, in early 2018, and her divorce from drummer Matt Burr. Potter divulged her pregnancy at the 2017 fest, and revealed her engagement to Los Angeles producer Eric Valentine, who produced her 2015 album, “Midnight.”
“Daylight” is Potter’s seventh album and first for the Fantasy label, following four releases on Hollywood Records.
“I know I’ve kept everyone waiting a long time for this one,” says Potter in the liner notes, thanking her “amazing fans for being so patient” and also thanking Valentine. “I’m so glad I met you,” she says, adding: “This album is our story.”
An advance listen to the album reveals that it’s well worth the wait. A return to her roots rock glory, “Daylight” soars on the strength of cathartic anthems, heartfelt confessionals, and a sense of liberation and honesty that’s downright refreshing.
Conjuring the spirit of her classic early albums like 2004’s “Original Soul,” “Daylight” marks a return of Potter’s unfettered creativity she says she felt upon first discovering songwriting.
“I really dug back into the roots of my creativity,” she says in press materials. “When I was 12 or 13, I would sneak away to write songs because I didn’t want anyone to hear me baring all.”
It’s an emphatic and assured statement about the past four years of her life — which she calls “a time of techtonic life changes.”
“I had just pulled the ripcord on my whole life,” she says. “It was an incredibly jarring, private experience. It was a very gradual process of re-framing music and its purpose in my life. So when I finally started writing songs again, I did it for me.”
“This album is about being able to take complete ownership of your feelings, without any anger or hate or shame,” she adds. “And that can be absolutely terrifying. But once you get to the other side, it’s exhilarating. It’s the feeling of knowing that you’re finally home.”
Partly recorded in Potter’s Topanga Canyon, California, garage and living room, the album mostly came to life through a series of live-to-tape sessions at Valentine’s Hollywood studio, Barefoot Recording.
Opener “Love is Love,” recently released to radio, is a catchy and poignant slow-burner buoyed by horns and the stunning vocal work of Jess Wolfe and Holly Lessing of indie-pop band Lucius — performing Sept. 15 at Grand Point North. The celebrated singers enhance four other songs on the album, including such standouts as the soulful “Back to Me” and the heart-wrenching yet gorgeous “Please,” one of several songs with Benmont Tench n keyboards.
Other highlights include the anthemic acoustic-based serenade “Every Heartbeat,” the soulful and aching “Shout it Out,” and the vintage roots-rock vibe of instant classic “Everyday Love.”
“I started writing music again because there were things I needed to say and feel,” says Potter of the album. “While living in Topanga, I was able to let music become an organic part of just living and being.”
“It is, in some ways, a return to the creative comfort of the naïve teenage beginnings when I was first discovering my voice. I rebuilt everything from the ground up, with only the need to serve whatever feels right for my voice, my heart and my soul.”
Here’s a look at several of this year’s Grand Point North artists:
Saturday, Sept. 14
7:35-8:35: Trombone Shorty – New Orleans sensation Troy Andrews, 33, and his powerhouse group bring their high-octane live show back to the Burlington waterfront, where they killed it at the 2017 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival — and at the 2013 edition of Grand Point North. Andrews is working on a follow-up to his kickin’ 2017 album, “Parking Lot Symphony,” which the All Music Guide called “equal parts New Orleans R&B sophistication and loose, block party fun.”
6:45-7:30: J.S. Ondara – Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, the now Minneapolis-based J.S. Ondara, 27, is a fast-rising singer-songwriter who was nominated for “Best Emerging Act” at the 2019 Americana Music Awards. Ondara’s stunning debut album, “Tales of America,” was released in February to widespread acclaim. Rolling Stone called it “a clear-eyed acoustic newcomer’s tale of American promise and calamity that establishes him as an invigorating new voice in American folk music.”
5:55-6:40: Lucy Dacus – Just 24, Richmond, Virginia singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus is already one of the most buzzworthy artists in indie rock. Her sophomore album, last year’s “Historian,” was easily one of 2018’s best albums. “It’s a rare artist who has a voice so compelling, and rarer still are the ones who learn so early on how to use it,” said Paste. “Dacus has already made a career album with ‘Historian,’ and she’s really only just getting started.”
Sunday, Sept. 15
6:50-7:50: Rainbow Kitten Surprise – Formed six years ago in the small college town of Boone, North Carolina, Rainbow Kitten Surprise is a wildly popular, genre-defying band that’s been selling out shows wherever they play — Including the Higher Ground Ballroom last October. That show followed the release of its highly infectious third album and major label debut, “How To: Friend, Love, Freefall.” “This undefinable five-piece band,” said NPR, “boasts a blend of charisma, musical chops, sing-along harmonies and breakneck creativity that’s made it a nearly instant favorite among the nation’s sandals-wearing music festival crowd.”
5:45-6:45: Gov’t Mule – Esteemed rock band Gov’t Mule returns to Vermont two months after playing the Stateside Amphitheater at Jay Peak Resort. The acclaimed quartet performs in support of a just-released double-album and full-length concert film, “Bring on the Music — Live at the Capitol Theatre.”
4:50-5:45: Lucius – Celebrated indie-pop group Lucius is fronted by two of the most sought-after vocalists in pop music, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who also add their stunning vocal work to Grace Potter’s forthcoming album, “Daylight.” Lucius — which performed at Grand Point North in 2014 — returns to Burlington following a sold-out show in 2018 at the intimate First Unitarian Church.