Hard to believe but this great singer-songwriter (whose award-winning work has been covered by everyone from Neil Diamond and George Strait to Etta James and Shania Twain) is now 60. But here she sounds as contemporary as many half her age as she deals with the lives and thoughts of women of all ages (the girl in the startlingly convincing Wichita is a troubled 12-year old) and deliver an album full of female empowerment wrapped up in memorable country-framed songs. Peters convincingly writes from within her characters (the young anxious women in The Boy from Rye, the self-aware hooker in Truckstop Angel who wonders if she is predator or prey) and pens spare lyrics which hook you in immediately: “I spend a lot of time here in the lowlands, mostly keeping to myself . . . ever since he put that sticker on his bumper I just turn out the lights and lock the door . . . I don’t know a soul who’s sleeping well” on the haunting and uneasy Trump-era Lowlands where the television lies to keep you watching and “the man who lies for the sake of lying, sell you kerosene and call is it hope”.
An exception writer and singer right at the top of her game. Still.
To read this review in its entirety, visit Elsewhere.
It’s an unforgettable moment when a performer comes down from the stage into the audience and sings a song. I saw David Bowie sing Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud from the stalls at Taunton, and now Gretchen Peters sing Love That Makes a Cup of Tea from the front row of St George’s in Bristol, both indelibly.
I have been fortunate to see the Nashville-based singer songwriter performing on several occasions in many venues, but never singing better than at St George’s, a venue she clearly loves both for its splendid warm acoustic and its loyal and enthusiastic audience.
She’s in the UK to promote her new album Dancing with the Beast, the result of what she hoped would be a relaxing break that was shattered by the 2016 election result. There was no indication that the title of the new record is especially relevant, but Gretchen, one of the most intelligently political of the avalanche of disaffected performers, captures that new mixture of fear, anger, nostalgia and disbelief that has swept across America.
To read this review in its entirety, visit The FTR.
LH: Stories and characters are always to the fore in your songwriting, you paint pictures so well, and this collection is no exception. And once again the stories you tell here aren’t always pretty….what is it the attracts you to flawed characters and desperate situations?
GP: I find these characters heroic. They persist, despite having been dealt a bad hand. If there’s anything beautiful and admirable about humans (and we’ve certainly been tested in the past few years to find it), it’s the ability to maintain their humanity in inhumane situations. The girls and women on Dancing With The Beast are, as my coproducer Doug Lancio said to me, “wrapped in a ramshackle kind of elegance” – I love that, because it elevates them the way I see them – as heroines, with a certain dignity and grace.
to read this interview in its entirety, visit Belles & Gals.
…Each of the eleven songs represents the voice of a different woman, with different life experiences, and at different ages. There is the lonely widow on ‘Arguing with Ghosts’, there’s the abused young girl in ‘Wichita’, the woman who lives as a ‘Truckstop Angel’. There is murder and revenge, loss, grief and heartache.
In the overheard interview, Gretchen Peters said that this wasn’t her original concept for the album. The death of her mother last year and the American election result in 2016, however, put these characters and their voices in her head. They are women’s voices, but they are songs that speak to humanity. She makes it clear that she isn’t a protest singer, but, while not being overtly political, the environment that surrounds the songs is political with both Trump’s presidency and all it represents and the #metoo campaign in the news. She described the political situation as an “empathy crisis” and these songs are about opening the “empathy channels”, giving people who don’t normally get heard a voice.
To read this review in its entirety, visit Pennyblack Music.
If it were not for Peters’ compassion wrought in her voice, this album would be unremittingly grim and desperate. It could be where one finds oneself – not so much in nowhere but at the dark end of the street. But Peters is too insightful for that. Dancing with the Beast is a survivor’s suite; a collection of what it means to be human, a meaning that is not guaranteed of sunshine and happiness…
Her music is wider than Nashville. It merges country, folk, Americana and rock. It’s that paradox of being all soul without being soul.
To read this review in its entirety, visit Daily Review (Australia).
…on her latest album Dancing With The Beast she re-affirms her position as the most compelling and original lyricist around – and from the off dispels any notion her astonishing turn of phrase may not be in the sublime health of old.
…‘Wichita’ continues a theme Peters began on ‘Independence Day’ a song which brought renown early in her career, but this is darker and even more vivid – if these were Springsteen songs (and he would be rightfully proud of both) ‘Independence Day’ would be on ‘Born In The USA,’ while ‘Wichita’ would feature on ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad,’ the point being her stories have become bleaker and if anything gained in resonance…
To read this review in its entirety, visit Samtimonious.
…to call Gretchen Peters a veteran of country rock would be a disservice: she still has stories to tell, ground to cover. Over the course of nearly two hours, through her honeyed yet weathered voice with little overt embellishment, Peters reminds you of what an irreplaceable talent she is.
New album Dancing with the Beast (“It’s not about my husband” we’re assured) is hot off the press and the majority of the set is dedicated to it. This includes the beautifully washed out ‘Arguing with Ghosts’. This could well be the creed underpinning all of Gretchen Peter’s work. Much of her music hangs around the impasse of ‘what ifs’…
To read this review in its entirety, visit Hey Nineteen.
…continuing to deal with often difficult subject matters including prostitution, death, depression, and the ageing process as seen through the eyes of different female characters, Gretchen Peters’ performance is as powerful as it is poignant. Admirably supported and complemented by a stellar band comprising her musical and marital partner Barry Walsh on keyboards, bassist Conor McCreanor and badass guitarist Colm McLean (whose blistering solo on ‘Lowlands’ – one of many that he peels off tonight – is nothing less than astonishing), Peters invests these often harrowing tales with the greatest of humanity and a firm belief that love can still somehow conquer all.
To read this review in its entirety, visit God Is In The TV.
I’ve really been writing about women and girls my whole life, so it’s not particularly surprising that this would be my reaction. They just started talking to me, like characters do. I’m not a protest songwriter, not an overtly political songwriter – but I do know how to tell a story, and I believe that when you tell one person’s story you’re creating a space for empathy. Storytelling is the best tool there is for understanding what it feels like to be someone else. That’s how songs move people and change minds. So in its own way, telling these women’s and girls’ stories is a political act.
To read this interview in its entirety, visit Unrated Magazine.
…atmosphere is another critical component in all of her songs. The first bars of her set sees her playing Arguing With Ghosts with just a half spotlight before the band join in. Immediately we’re absorbed into her world. Wichita, a brilliant tale of justified revenge, sits alongside The Matador that makes for some compelling lyrical painting early on. While the focus is on her exceptional new album, Dancing With The Beast, there are of course some of her most famous tracks: Five Minutes, On A Bus To St Cloud and a new addition to the ‘best of’ catalogue, Blackbirds – another dramatic tale of murder…
To read this review in its entirety, visit Photogroupie.
The immaculate surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall and the music of Gretchen Peters are the perfect fit. A hushed environment absorbed every word from the most meaningful array of songs you are likely to hear in a single set. This was Gretchen Peters in absolute control, cashing in on a lifetime of experience, association and striving to pen the momentous song.
To read this review in its entirety, visit 3 Chords and the Truth.
The characters that inhabit these lyrics are all fictional, from the elderly woman looking back on her life in Disappearing Act and the prostitute in Truckstop Angel to the teenager dealing with the confusion of her first crush in The Boy From Rye and the little girl that finally snaps and takes a stand against her abusive father in the haunting Wichita. But their stories ring so true and dig so deep that they ultimately bring solace and redemption to us listeners. And what more can you hope to accomplish as a songwriter than that? Dancing With The Beast is a masterpiece.
To read this review in its entirety, visit Slim Chance Is Back.
I stopped by BBC Radio 2 in Manchester on Sunday morning to visit with Reverend Kate Bottley and Jason Mohammed on their Good Morning Sunday show. We had a great chat about songwriting, faith, and lots of other things. Kate and Jason are lovely and it was such a pleasure, in spite of waking up at 6:30am after a late show in Southport the night before! Thanks to everyone at BBC Radio 2 and the Good Morning Sunday staff for the strong black tea!
If you missed it you can listen to the interview here (fast forward to about 2hrs30min)