“Blackbirds” review – The Courier-Mail (Queensland, Australia)

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Like Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams, American singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters digs deep in her songs. You always feel she is writing about something true. The album opens with the title tune, a brooding murder ballad, with powerful vocal set amid wisps of Hammond organ and guitarist Doug Lancio’s smoky slide guitar. It’s a jaw-dropping performance that sets up the rest of the album. When All You Got Is A Hammer is about a war veteran, with Peters delivering potent lines complemented by a perfect cameo from Jerry Douglas on dobro. Everything Falls Away is a piano ballad about learning of a loved one’s death; The House on Auburn Street observes darkness behind the blinds in suburbia. Jubilee is a song of longing to escape, the kind of song Randy Newman might write, while Black Ribbons is a heart-wrenching goodbye from a husband to his wife lost in Hurricane Katrina. Death and disaster are never far away in Blackbirds, where Peters stakes her claim as one of the best songwriters in this rich field.

-Noel Mengel