Recently Sirius/XM asked me to host a series of shows on The Village, the folk channel. The show is called Tower Of Song, and the playlist for show #2, which aired on February 1, 2012, is below.

Show #2
(Feat. guest: Slaid Cleaves)

intro: Tower Of Song

song: Jesse Winchester “Mississippi, You’re On My Mind”
song: Emmylou Harris “Before Believing”
song: Mary McCaslin “Ballad Of Weaverville”

song: Slaid Cleaves “Twistin’”
guest: Slaid Cleaves

song: Bruce Springsteen “State Trooper”
song: Richard & Linda Thompson “Down Where The Drunkards Roll”
song: Mary Black “Columbus”

song: Gretchen Peters “Saint Francis ”
song: David Olney “1917”
song: Buddy Mondlock “The Cats Of The Colosseum”

song: Blind Boys of Alabama “Moses”
song: Sweet Honey In The Rock “Sylvie”
song: Ribbon Of Highway Cast (Jimmy LaFave, Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson,  Ellis Paul, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, Michael Fracasso) “This Train Is Bound For Glory”

outro: Tower Of Song     .

 

Recently Sirius/XM asked me to host a series of shows on The Village, the folk channel. The show is called Tower Of Song, and the playlist for show #1, which aired on January 25, 2012, is below.

Show #1
(Feat. guest: Tom Russell)

intro: Tower Of Song

song: Leonard Cohen “Tower Of Song”
song: Bob Dylan “Girl From The North Country”
song: Lucy Kaplansky  “Land Of The Living”

song: Tom Russell “Goodnight Juarez”
guest: Tom Russell

song: Ian & Sylvia “Four Strong Winds”
song: Nanci Griffith “Trouble In The Fields”
song: Richard Shindell “Deportee”

song: Gretchen Peters “The Matador”
song: Jeffrey Foucault “One Red Rose”
song: Eliza Gilkyson “Beauty Way”

song: Simon & Garfunkel “Kathy’s Song”
song: Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem “Farewell to Saint Dolores”
song: Joni Mitchell “That Song About The Midway”

outro: Tower Of Song

This is the last in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Nashville, 2010

 

Haven’t done as well as I thought I would

I’m not dead but I’m damaged goods

And it’s getting late

 

As we grow older, the monsters and ghosts that haunted us in childhood trade in their garish clothing for something more mundane, more fitting to middle-age. They take the shape of lost causes, lost opportunities, lost love. They stare back at us from the mirror. They go by names like Futility, Defeat, Failure.

 

You don’t live this long without regrets

Telephone calls you don’t wanna get

Stones you’d rather leave unturned

 

Anyone who’s telling the truth will tell you that there are regrets. Eventually your limitations, your weaknesses and your failures rise up to greet you, and you either make peace with them or they haunt you, or kill you. Keep moving forward. Survival is heroic. It’s the struggle, not the victory.

 

But ooh, the grain of sand becomes the pearl

Yeah, hello cruel world

 

“Hello Cruel World” by Gretchen Peters
©2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the tenth in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.


I threw a rose to the matador

Not sure who I was cheering for

My aim was true, my heart was full

I loved the fighter and the bull

 

Federico García Lorca describes the Spanish concept of duende as a kind of dark spirit, a creative power which seizes an artist and brings forth the deepest, most elemental creation. The artist does not surrender to the duende, but battles it, “on the rim of the well”. The power of the duende is such that it takes control not only of the performer but also the audience. We’ve all felt it when the hairs on our neck are raised by a singer in thrall to a song, when we inexplicably cry at the turn of a phrase. Duende brings the artist “face to face with death.” But what about his audience, and the woman who loves him?

To fall in love is to lose oneself temporarily. To be pulled into another’s world. To love an artist like this is to be pulled into the furnace of his creative fire, to be swallowed whole by his world. And to resign oneself to being a spectator, at times. But oh, the view.

I loved like only a woman can

a very complicated man

I bound his wounds I heard his cries

I gave him truth, I told him lies

 

“The Matador” by Gretchen Peters
©2011  Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

Click here to watch the music video of “The Matador”

This is the ninth in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.


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

 

When we’re children we enjoy ourselves without self-consciousness. Then somewhere along the way we stop trusting pleasure. Our puritanical inheritance kicks in and our animal selves check out. We start to buy the idea that the carnal is, if not evil, at least base. And the schism between the mind, the heart and the body deepens, until our souls are so out of whack that we do something radical. Maybe something that looks like a midlife crisis, or a cri de coeur, or the act of a crazy person. But in this world awash in craziness – people mowing each other down in WalMart to buy televisions, churches exhorting their congregations to hate – is it so crazy to stop worshipping at their altars and turn towards home, and each other?

They say religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell; spirituality is for people who’ve already been there. We look for sustenance in a junk food world. Not so surprising that we find it by using our senses – the ones we were born with. Made in God’s own image, indeed.

 

when the Great Correction finally comes

goin’ back to the garden where we come from

gonna sow our seed in the good sweet ground

and let our love come tumbling down

“Paradise Found” by Gretchen Peters
©2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Alexis Elizabeth Harris (all rights reserved)

This is the eighth in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Las Vegas, 2007


In the heat of the moment he cried out your name
But the moment it didn’t last long
Ten minutes later he’s driving away
And you’re putting your pantyhose on

 

The cracks are beginning to show. She hides behind a self-effacing laugh, but payment on that big debt is coming due. You can only bury the past for so long before it comes back up like a nasty splinter, working its way to the surface. Killing the pain trumps feeling the pleasure, what pleasure there is to feel. And there are so many ways to kill the pain. Endless, seductive, easy ways; sex, booze and drugs the old standbys, but they’re inventing new ones all the time.

The cruelest by-product of her pain is the shame, a layer of grime you can’t wash away with a hot shower and a cup of coffee. What happens to a little girl whose trust is violated by the one she trusts most? She decides it’s her own damn fault. That’s the conundrum, the riddle, the unknowable, heartbreaking salt in the wound. Wounded, we wound ourselves.


The sins of the fathers are not meant for daughters
But somehow you felt you’re to blame
And the ghost in your head and the men in your bed
They all look like they’re one and the same

“Camille” by Gretchen Peters, Matraca Berg & Suzy Bogguss
©2008 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing/Gretchen Peters Music (ASCAP), Hannaberg Music, administered by Songs of Universal & Zoe Mahoney Music (BMI)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the seventh in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Nashville, 2011


Baby lock that old front door

Got a good red wine to pour

Cause the world is just too much for me tonight

I’m a soldier back from war

Too tired to care no more

And too sad to put up any kind of fight

 

We’re all soldiers. Every one of us fights some kind of battle every day. The enemy may be the soul-sucking job, the overdue bills, the supermarket line, the alcoholic brother-in-law, the bully down the street, the bottle, the needle, the scale. The emptiness that won’t be filled no matter what you feed it. Life. We come home to the TV news – and it’s all bad. A relentless, soul-battering barrage of gloom, doom and horror.

And here, in a state somewhere between exhaustion and panic, we try to find something – peace, or maybe blessed oblivion. Retreat. Sometimes all you can do is all you can do. Lock the door, keep your angels close, and, be it ever so humble, give thanks for home.


From here to the garden gate

Is a world that we create

Just a little world

It’s just a little world

 

“Little World” by Gretchen Peters
©2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the sixth in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Las Vegas, 2007


There’s a man out here puts his head in the mouth of a crocodile

Puts the whole thing in, takes it out and gives the crowd a great big smile

And they walk away with their illusions of safety safely intact

And they tell their little wide-eyed kids it’s only an act

 

Picasso said that Art is a lie which makes us realize truth. It’s an act of death-defying. It’s a Hail Mary pass at eternity. The artist creates an illusion. The illusion is made of pieces of herself. Her blood, her tears, her sweat. Broken bones, broken hearts, broken lives. All of these glittering things are held together with hope and baling wire, to create something true.

The artist’s job is to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”. She’s embracing failure, uncertainty, fear, death. Holding up a mirror.

Making you look.


They say I got a death wish, yeah, but I don’t think that’s true

As far as I can see it’s less about me and more about you

You see it ain’t your fears so much as what your fears reveal

I’m just the woman on the wheel

 

“Woman On The Wheel” by Gretchen Peters
©2008 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing & Gretchen Peters Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the fifth in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Savannah, Georgia, 2010


I got no use for harps and wings

I got no time for foolish things

There is no heaven, there is no hell

There’s only you, my dark angel

 

There are people who come into your life who seem too pure for this world. For them, the membrane that separates our protective delusions from the cruel world is paper-thin. They feel too acutely, empathize too much. Often, and perversely, they’re the ones who come into the world with the heaviest burdens. They wear a halo of vulnerability, but conceal a deep strength, too. They are the old souls.

Maybe they’re the real angels. Maybe heaven, and hell, are here, now. In pursuit of some idealized version of the future, and of ourselves, we overlook what’s staring us in the face. Our ragged, imperfect selves, living in our ragged, imperfect present. Each others’ angels, each others’ saviors.


and if there is no hereafter

and there is only here

life is still a beautiful disaster

ah, but we both know that, my dear

 

BeliefNet.com has featured “Dark Angel” as their Song Of The Week. Click on the link to preview the song. Many thanks to Rodney Crowell, who sings the duet vocal on “Dark Angel”.

“Dark Angel” by Gretchen Peters
© 2011 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the fourth in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

New Orleans, 2010


Earthquake shook the California ground

Took a freeway out and some buildings down

Well I’ve never felt the earth move under my heels

But I got a pretty good idea how it feels

 

Flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane, tsunami. We go from calamity to calamity. Hello cruel world. Meanwhile the world spins on, unconcerned, deaf to our questioning. Why is this happening? What does it mean? We seek explanation, we blame God, we blame each other, we blame the Other. We look for signs and portents. To infer meaning from random events – it’s hubris, it’s human. Does nature make mistakes? Does God? Is it possible that none of it means anything, or more probably that the answer is so far beyond us that we can’t comprehend the question?

We build our houses on fault lines; we give our most vulnerable selves to each other – and sooner or later disaster strikes. Keep your heart and your door closed and you may be able to avoid pain, but you never feel the wild aliveness of the world. Open your heart and you risk it all. Love is a natural disaster.


They say it was a miracle no one died

Just two people hurt and some wounded pride

Love takes everything in its path

And leaves you breathless in the aftermath

 

“Natural Disaster” by Gretchen Peters
© 2011 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the third in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released January 2012.

Pelham, New York, 1960s


They’re in the front seat, he’s got the radio low

And the moon hangs over Idlewild as the planes touch down

He is talking but she’s not listening

She is thinking of her father, who died when she was young

 

In the mid-1960s my little world and the much larger one around me were both coming apart at the seams. You don’t see the correlation until much later – years later – but it’s there, and from the distance of decades it takes on its own kind of symmetry. From that distance another thing becomes visible: how much things have changed, and how little. Families still fall apart, hate still spawns more hate, the names change but the troubles don’t.

My father was a journalist; his beat was the Civil Rights movement. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, my father, in a state of grief and anger, locked himself in the basement. As a small child, I found that terrifying.  Not long afterwards, the family of Medgar Evers, the slain civil rights leader, came to stay at our home in Pelham, New York, so that his widow Myrlie and my father could work on her memoir. During their visit there was a snowstorm, and their youngest son, Van and I built a snowman together in the front yard. It was the first time Van had ever seen snow. He was momentarily transported beyond his grief by the magic of it.

On our black and white TV in the kitchen, I watched Kennedy riding in the back of a limo – shot, fatally wounded, and falling into his wife’s lap, over and over again. In my front yard I played in the snow with a little boy who saw his father gunned down in his own driveway. The political is personal; the personal is political. We think we’re walking on the moon, but we are dancing in the dark.


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

 

“Idlewild” by Gretchen Peters
© 2010 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

This is the second in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released worldwide in early 2012.

Kansas, 2010

 

Most nights I come home from work and I pour a glass of wine

Sometimes it’s three or four before I stop

And Jesse makes a sandwich if I sleep through suppertime

And she leaves me on the couch to sleep it off

 

I know this woman. I see her in line at the grocery store, pouring coffee at a diner, stopped at a traffic light at rush hour. Part of me pities her, part of me admires her, part of me is her. There but for the grace of god. She’s caught at the crossroads where the struggle to come to terms with one’s mortality meets the urge to slip into unconsciousness. The hell with it; have another cigarette, another glass of wine, another piece of pie. Feeling the weight of her past, and watching it as it bears down on her own child.

But she’s a heroine, not a victim. It takes more guts to survive than to give up. To admit your mistakes, to acknowledge the hard truths and keep going. To persevere, to endure.

 

Somehow I’ve let myself go gently down the stream

A fine example I have set

Between the working and the livin’

and the ghosts that haunt my dreams

I’ve got five minutes, and I’m gonna smoke this cigarette

 

To view a clip from the recording of “Five Minutes”: Five Minutes string session with Chris Carmichael and David Henry

“Five Minutes” by Gretchen Peters
© 2010 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)

This is the first in a series of blog entries about the songs on the upcoming album “Hello Cruel World”, to be released worldwide in early 2012.

New Orleans, 2010


Saint Francis begging at your doorway

You want to let him in but what will the neighbors say

And you know you can’t go on but you can’t give up

And he answers you with his begging cup

 

Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology, among other things. He grew up wealthy, but chose to live in poverty. He begged on the streets. He is often pictured with animals, whom he called his brothers and sisters. Legend has it that he once brokered a peace between a wolf who was terrorizing a village, and its people. The wolf, he said, had “done evil out of hunger”. He made the townspeople promise to feed the wolf, and made the wolf promise not to harm them. Years later, the wolf died of old age, and the townspeople wept.

There’s a line of thinking floating about these days, that this world doesn’t matter, only the next. There’s no need to protect or respect the earth – use what we find, leave what we use, and move on to the next realm. Bring on the end times. What would Francis the environmentalist – he who called nature “the mirror of God” – make of this? What would he think about the obscene gusher of oil that sullied the Gulf of Mexico last year; the free floating soup of plastic in the Pacific gyre; the ice-free North Pole? How did we get to the point where we are made to choose, ideologically, between nature and spirit? Who is the wolf?

 

He’s been sleeping for 800 years

In a potter’s field full of sparrow’s tears

And while we sleep and dream of heaven’s gates

down here on earth the old man waits

 

“Saint Francis” by Gretchen Peters & Tom Russell
© Circus Girl Music & Frontera Music (administered by Bug Music) (ASCAP)
from the upcoming album Hello Cruel World

photo by Gretchen Peters (all rights reserved)