Gretchen Peters is a singer-songwriter based in Nashville. Although best known as a songwriter for Bryan Adams, Faith Hill and many others, she also has nine (yes, nine) solo albums to her credit and is steadily building a fan base in the UK. Hello Cruel Worldis due for release at the end of January.
Hello Cruel World is a collection of eleven self-written songs that offer a wry, and often intimate view of life and what we make of it. The title track opens the album, with viola and cello (courtesy of Chris Carmichael and David Henry) adding a dark tone to Gretchen’s beautiful and arresting voice. It’s a strong opening lyrically too; we’re reminded that, as the years tumble by, there are indeed regrets, and they’re often the ghosts that haunt our later lives. It’s clear that this album’s greatest strength lies in its highly accessible song-writing, which invites, and rewards, close scrutiny.
Saint Francis has a more gentle approach, with a light Mediterranean vein running through it, thanks to Will Kimbrough‘s bouzouki. Co-written with Tom Russell, the song invokes the memory of the ecologically minded saint, and asks questions of humankind’s custodianship of the planet.
There’s an excellent vocal duet with Rodney Crowell in Dark Angel, quite possibly the first song on the album that could really fit the ‘country’ tag applied to Greatchen’s music. In Paradise Found the string section comes to the fore again in a bluesy exaltation of self, and sensual awareness…
“I worship no idol I seek no god / I don’t believe in no holy jihad / I don’t believe in original sin / I believe in the heat underneath our skin”.
The gentle guitar and piano backing of Five Minutes belies the protagonist’s close call between the struggle to survive and losing the will to carry on.
Former collaborators Matraca Berg & Suzy Bogguss joined Gretchen once again to co-write Camille, an earthy and heartbreaking chronicle of a life that’s lost its way, with Vinnie Ciesielski’s muted trumpet painting rain spotted neon reflections in a Chandler-esque setting. Natural Disaster suggests that there’s no avoiding the inevitable trials of life, especially the (potentially) most destructive one of all.
For me, Idlewild stands head and shoulders above the other tracks on this album. With its soft introduction and warm cello, this haunting and deeply personal song about childhood memories and the Human Rights movement outshines the other notable achievements…
“We shoot our rockets, we shoot our presidents / We shoot the commies and the niggers and the Viet Cong / Everything changes, everything stays the same / And the moon hangs over Idlewild as the planes touch down”
In writing about this song Gretchen said
“The political is personal; the personal is political. We think we’re walking on the moon, but we are dancing in the dark.”
Little World closes the album on a lonely note, a gentle retreat into a world removed from the strains of the big world outside.
In support of Gretchen’s fine songwriting we also have Viktor Krauss on double bass and Barry Walsh on piano. Doug Lancio, in addition to his excellent work in producing the album, plays several guitars, not least a beautifully soulful baritone. This musical canvas on which Gretchen paints her poetic songs bring light to the darker side of her lyrics and lift the listener towards a glimmer of hope, rather than a gloomy twilight. For those who appreciate a well presented melody, accomplished lyricism and the kind of vocal performance that draws the audience ever closer, this album gets 2012 off to a strong start.
March 1st The Sage, Gateshead, UK
March 2nd The Arc, Stockton on Tees, UK
March 3rd The Met, Bury, UK
March 4th The Arches, Glasgow, UK
March 5th Buxton Opera House, Buxton, UK
March 7th Robin 2, Bilston, UK
March 8th Fibbers, York, UK
March 9th Kelly’s, Galway, Ireland
March 10th Damer Court Hotel, Roscrea, Ireland
March 12th Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, Ireland
March 13th Whelan’s, Dublin, Ireland
March 14th Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady, Northern Ireland, UK
March 15th Errigle Inn, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
March 16th Coliseum, Aberdare, UK
March 18th The Assembly, Leamington Spa, UK
March 19th Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich, UK
March 20th Bush Hall, London, UK
March 21st The Phoenix, Exeter, UK
March 23rd Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
March 24th Crystal Club, Berlin, Germany
March 25th Studio 672, Köln, Germany
March 27th de Schalm, Westwoud, Netherlands
March 28th Transvaria, Den Haag, Netherlands
March 29th Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 30th In The Woods, Lage Vuursche, Netherlands
March 31st Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven, Netherlands
April 2nd Komedia, Brighton, UK
April 3rd The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds, UK
April 4th The Stables, Milton Keynes, UK
April 5th The Glee Club, Nottingham, UK
Hello Cruel World is released on Proper Records (30 Jan 2012)