“Wichita” has been featured in NPR’s “Heavy Rotation – 10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing. Each month, NPR Music invites DJs from public radio stations across the country to share the songs they can’t get enough of.

Of the song, NPR’s Jessie Scott writes: “You don’t hear many murder ballads these days, even though the form has been with us since the beginning of time. On “Wichita,” Gretchen Peters takes us on a dark ride of revenge told from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl. It is at once haunting, timeless, sad and empowering. You’ll find it on the new album, Dancing With The Beast, where Peters once again proves to be a master songwriter and storyteller, with a voice that is world weary enough to persuasively deliver the passion and pathos of a tale pulled from the headlines.”

To read about “Wichita” and all the other songs featured this month, visit NPR.

 

…she brings on Kim Richey to add vocals for a number of the songs, including particularly affecting versions of ‘Say Grace’ and ‘Dancing With The Beast’. It’s interesting to note how these songs live take on a whole new resonance – and that’s from what are often pretty damn fine collections of songs on record. Yet perhaps the most affecting part of the evening is when by herself, just an acoustic guitar and no microphone she closes with ‘Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea.’ It’s beautifully intimate and a lovely closer to a fine night.

To read this review in its entirety, visit 17 Seconds.

With someone like Kim Richey on tour it would have been a missed opportunity not to collaborate and so it was a delight when she joined Gretchen on a version of Say Grace. Faith is another recurring theme in her music and listening to these two women sing was nothing short of heavenly. I couldn’t help welling up (and wishing I’d brought tissues).

To read this review in its entirety, visit Highway Queens.

…“Dancing With The Beast” is an ambitious thing too, a series of songs telling the stories of different women, from young children to the elderly and everything in between (“I feel surrounded by sisters” is how Peters puts it here). Each one works, though, because of Peters’ wonderful gift for songwriting and her absolutely superb voice. “Arguing With Ghosts” is delivered with smoky, brooding tones, the highlight “Truckstop Angel” is not only a heart wrenching story, but a vehicle for the wonderful band she’s assembled to show their skills…

To read this review in its entirety, visit Maximum Volume.

…with a new album just out, a lot of the material in this set came from it, and there are explorations here into hauntingly beautiful melodies like “The Boy From Rye” alongside  explorations into the darker realms of the psychological control of someone and the sense of self blame, worthlessness, and insecurity that the skilful abuser can inflict on their victim in the album’s title track “Dancing With the Beast”.  This album simply is full of so many skilfully crafted songs and “Arguing With Ghosts” and “Truckstop Angel” are a few more from this set that clearly show Gretchen Peters to be one of the great story tellers writing at the moment anywhere…

To read this review in its entirety, visit The Southside Advertiser.

…all the stories are free of embellishments, with Peters not one for poetic flourishes, but that doesn’t mean bluntness or mere simplicity. Her lyrics feel tender right through, as if written in response to her characters, respecting their emotions – knowing their moments. And then, in something like the final song, Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea, unafraid to be of them not about them.

Similarly, musically, Peters plays it straight and quietly. The gentle tug of Say Grace, so soon after the subdued melancholy of Truckstop Angel (a song which transcends its familiar setting) is like a peaceful hymn that isn’t offering salvation but instead, a salve. The musings-out-loud of The Boy From Rye – brushed piano and barely murmuring bass, over which Peters confides – feels like it might have jostled for space on Emmylou Harris’ Stumble Into Grace (and you just know Harris, who has an uncanny ear for a song, would be a fan of Peters)…

To read this review in its entirety, visit BernardZuel.net

…It’s a powerful set of songs, mostly echoing a downcast perspective, but each comes across with both enlightenment and emotion, often in the most uncommon ways. Indeed, it’s all but impossible not to be affected by Peters’ impacting infusion of sentiment and sobriety…

…Peters ultimately finds redemption in the coda, “Love That Makes a Cup of Tea,” a song that celebrates the simple joy of giving and sharing in ways that are often the least perceived. A remarkable description of perseverance and promise, even in the fact of adversity, “Dancing With the Beast” offers heartfelt lessons about resilience and resolve.

To read this review in its entirety, visit Country Standard Time.

One of the standouts on this album, “Say Grace” is something for everyone. This album may focus on very specific characters, but the sentiment of feeling hopeless or lost is a highly relatable one. At our lowest, there’s at least room for redemption and acceptance, because that’s how the love truly begins to form. That’s how the hatred and the differences dissolve into nothing. The only way we can fail is if we give up, and the only person who can stop us from making a difference is us.  The song captures this sentiment so well, and it just may be one of Peters’ finest tunes ever.

It’s also easy to view “Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea” as something similar to what Jason Isbell did with “Something To Love” off of last year’s The Nashville Sound. Much like “Say Grace,” the main theme here is love, more specifically how love can form even in the tiniest of actions. It doesn’t take much to make a difference to somebody, and in an overwhelming time, it’s important to keep that in mind.

Dancing With The Beast is an incredibly complex, rich album that offers up hope by reminding us of who we can be at our lowest. The resulting project is one of her best.

To read this review in its entirety, visit The Shotgun Seat.

…there are more moments of lightness and beauty throughout the set, even on tracks like ‘Lowlands’, a shell-shocked chorus-less piece charting the reaction of a country after the 2016 election. It’s a typically outraged response to the result, as many songs since have been, but among angry crunchy guitar riffs, there is a glimmer of hope and honesty, in this case sonically provided by Doug Lancio’s banjo lines, a sound that cuts through the darkness. But by the end of this splendid album, positivity and simple faith in humankind and love come to the fore in ‘Love that Makes a cup of Tea’, a simple lesson in hopefulness inspired by Peters’ mother.

Gretchen Peters has reacted to the adoring reception of Blackbirds by writing an even better album in Dancing with the Beast. It is a recording that tackles deep subjects through strong characters and starkly beautiful song-writing, all kept perfectly balanced by subtly inspired musical arrangements. This is assured, highly impressive work from all involved.

To read this review in its entirety, visit Folk Radio.

4 1/2 stars of 5

In Dancing With The Beast Gretchen Peters has delivered another vital dose of country music perfection whose magical songcraft feels entirely personal and yet manages to embrace how it feels to be a woman today. It’s sweet, painful, beautiful, dark, funny and heartbreaking; there is no doubt at all that Peters deserves her place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

To read this review in its entirety, visit musicOMH.

“I don’t know why I have this attraction to characters who’ve seen a lot of s–t,” Gretchen Peters tells The Boot. She’s speaking to media in advance of her new album, Dancing With the Beasta project that grapples with themes of darkness, death and female characters who — particularly as they age — go unheard and unseen.

“A month after the election, I lost my mom, and I also lost a couple of friends during that time,” Peters shares. “It was just a season of grief and loss. I sat in it for a while, and then, in 2017, I decided it was time to start writing again.

“But how do you write in this time that we’re in? You can’t not write about it; it’s everywhere, it’s pervasive,” she continues. “I’m not a political writer; I’m a storyteller. I knew I wasn’t going to write an album of protest songs, so how do I express the anxiety and grief and anger that I’m feeling and still do it in a meaningful way?”

To read this interview in its entirety, visit The Boot.

9 stars of 10

Gretchen Peters consistently raises the bar and somehow manages to surpass it with each album.  Her previous outing, 2015’s Blackbirds won the International Roots Album of the Year. This time she retains many of the same backing musicians and co-writers but focuses on female characters from teenage girls to old women to deliver another masterpiece. Peters proves yet again on Dancing with the Beast that she is today’s most vivid, detailed songwriter. She is uncanny at transforming simple thoughts or images into song. “The pictures and details come first, and I think that’s kind of necessary because they’re sort of like little bombs of emotion,” she says. “It’s like when you pull out a Polaroid that you haven’t seen in 25 years, and your heart just kind of explodes because it brings back a whole world.”

To read this review in its entirety, visit Glide Magazine.

In every song on this riveting, elegiac album, a person is caught up in emotion because of events, or, in the case of “Arguing With Ghosts”, an absence of events. Peters realises, therefore, that her first task is to act the songs, and her second, to sing them. These are a series of one-act plays, but more compact and with more disciplined constructions.

This is a dark album, to put it mildly, with songs that manage, with deft use of language, to cram a whole epic into three minutes. It’s astonishingly good writing – accessible without pandering. These are American stories from a writer who views the world with a marked abundance of compassion.

To read this review in its entirety, visit Pop Matters.