Grace Potter, Jason Isbell shine bright

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

Two shiny bright stars will grace the stage for two separate shows this Sunday.

Grace Potter, who has led her band, the Nocturnals, to a hippie-rock sound and Jason Isbell, who won a top honor at the most recent Americana Music Awards, showing once and for all that he's much more than a former member of Drive-By Truckers, are arguably the must-see show of the season.

"I have learned a lot from him," said Potter of her collaborations with country star Kenny Chesney, which include their 2010 recording of Matraca Berg's "You and Tequila" and their duet on the cover of "El Cerrito Place," that just became the third single from Chesney's most recent album. "He's a workhorse just like I am, and all his energy or anxiety or whatever it is yields something that is so meaningful. And just the generosity with how he carries himself and treats his crew, his band. It's really inspiring."

The same could be said about both Potter and Isbell. Potter started her band just over a decade ago when she was a student at St. Lawrence University, self-producing and releasing their own albums. Her latest album, "The Lion the Beast the Beat," won acclaim from critics including those at the New York Times. Just five years after leaving the Drive-By Truckers, Isbell and his band, the 400 Unit, won Song of the Year at the Americana Music Awards for the song "Alabama Pines."

Onstage
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals with Jason Isbell
When: Sunday, Potter at 6 p.m., Isbell at 10 p.m.
When: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW
Info: Potter sold out as of press time, but tickets may be available through resellers; Isbell $20; 877-987-6487; 930.com

"I've really always had the same plans and always had the same ideas about how to reach my goals," said Isbell. "I don't have to work a day job, so I'm a happy guy."

Expect the joy that Potter, Isbell and their bands profess about their work to be in clear evidence at the upcoming show.

Scott McLennan of the Boston Globe, in a review of a recent concert, reported, "Potter hasn't so much transformed as piled on. The hippie-chick crunchiness of her early work still figured into the mix even as she's taken on a more glamorous look and adopted a more polished sound."

That's not to say that Isbell will take second best. According to a review of a recent show by Matt Sorrell of KDHX in St. Louis, "Throughout the show, Isbell and the 400 Unit displayed an uncanny groove and musical connection to each other. They wandered over, under and sometimes through the songs while always maintaining the essential thread of the tune. Their extended takes on songs like "Try" were reminiscent of the finest live moments of [Neil Young and] Crazy Horse."

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Nancy Dunham

Examiner Correspondent
The Washington Examiner