Hello Cruel World

Artist
Gretchen Peters
Released
2012
Genre
Singer-Songwriter

Listen to Hello Cruel World in its entirety.

  1. Hello Cruel World -:-- / -:--
  2. Saint Francis -:-- / -:--
  3. The Matador -:-- / -:--
  4. Dark Angel -:-- / -:--
  5. Paradise Found -:-- / -:--
  6. Woman On The Wheel -:-- / -:--
  7. Five Minutes -:-- / -:--
  8. Camille -:-- / -:--
  9. Natural Disaster -:-- / -:--
  10. Idlewild -:-- / -:--
  11. Little World -:-- / -:--

LYRICS

HELLO CRUEL WORLD

by Gretchen Peters

haven’t done as well as I thought I would
I’m not dead but I’m damaged goods
And it’s gettin’ late
I’m a rusty hinge, a squeaky wheel
at the bad end of a shaky deal
cursed by the hand of fate
and ooooooh – I’m a very lucky girl
yeah ooooooh – hello cruel world

I’m a ticking clock, a losing bet
a girl without a safety net
I’m a cause for some concern
You don’t live this long without regrets
Telephone calls you don’t wanna get
Stones you’d rather leave unturned
but ooooooh – the grain of sand becomes the pearl
yeah ooooooh – hello cruel world

some folks go the easy route
numb the pain or put the lights out
either way they got to go
me I’m gonna stick around
in for a penny in for a pound
cause I hate to miss the show
and ooooooh – I’m a very stubborn girl
yeah ooooooh – hello cruel world
hello cruel world

©2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

ST. FRANCIS

by Gretchen Peters/Tom Russell

St. Francis walking on the water
All his lambs have gone to slaughter
All the creatures who receive his grace
you can see them all
in his haggard face

St Francis begging at your doorway
you want to let him in but what will the neighbors say
you know you can’t go on but you can’t give up
And he answers you
with his begging cup

St Francis sitting at your table
a cup of tea among the faithful
behind a wall that’s made of little lies
much to your surprise
you start to cry

by these wounds you will be whole again
by these signs you will know
you’ll feel a stirring in your soul again
’til sweet amnesia takes a hold

Saint Francis sleeping in the meadow
His halo is a raven’s shadow
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

© 2011 Circus Girl Music & Frontera Music (administered by Bug Music) (ASCAP)

THE MATADOR

by Gretchen Peters

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
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

His rage is made of many things: faithless women, wedding rings
Snakes and snails and alcohol, his daddy’s fist thrown through the wall
Ah but he’s beautiful when he’s in the ring, the devil howls, the angels sing
Sparks fly from his fingertips and words like birds fly from his lips

Some man is lyin’ in the dirt
Some woman’s crying that he’s hurt
But he’s not alive without the thrill
Without the dance, without the kill
The lights go down, the people roar
They’re cheering on the matador
And this is how the story goes
I knew it when I threw the rose

I come to each and every show; the woman in the second row
I watch them in their ancient dance and I know I never stood a chance
Cause while other demons prance and clown, it’s vanity that takes you down
I thought that I could be the one, but I’m just another hanger-on

Some man is bleedin’ in the dirt
Some woman’s crying that she’s hurt
But who are we without the thrill
Without the dance, without the kill
And he is bull and matador
And I’m the mother and the whore
And this is how the story goes
I knew it when I threw the rose

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

© 2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

DARK ANGEL

by Gretchen Peters

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

your bleeding heart, your pilgrim soul
your wounded eyes, that take their toll
your ragged voice like a broken bell
against the noise, my dark angel

and if there is no hereafter
and there is only here
life is still a beautiful disaster
ah but you know that my dear

so let the curtain rise, let the great world spin
if it’s all for show – let the show begin
everybody’s got something, something to sell
except for you, my dark angel

there is no heaven, there is no hell
there’s only you, my dark angel
there’s only you, my dark angel

© 2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

PARADISE FOUND

by Gretchen Peters

I got a fine house, I got a deep well
I’m a woman who knows how to keep to herself
when your need is strong and the hour is late
baby you got the key to my garden gate

honeysuckle clings to the old stone wall
just like Eden before the fall
from dust we come and dust we’ll be
love’s the only thing gonna set us free

so open the doors and come inside
nectar’s in the blossom and the bee’s in the hive
oh daddy won’t you ease on down
East of Eden, Paradise Found

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 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 tumblin down

chorus

© 2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

WOMAN ON THE WHEEL

by Gretchen Peters

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

There’s a man out here throws knives at a target with a blindfold on
And the wheel spins round and the knives bear down til they find their home
And I can feel the rush and the whoosh of every blade of steel
Cause I am the woman on the wheel

Sometimes i get lonely sometimes i get scared but most times bored
Sometimes i ask god please god just show me just what’s behind that door
As if god was Monty Hall and this was Let’s Make A Deal
And I am the woman on the wheel

Had a sweet little baby in Coeur D’Alene, he was an acrobat
Took me out on the wire man i never knew love could feel like that
But in the end he was a man who couldn’t keep his feet on the ground too long
In the end it’s just another highwire act gone wrong

So it’s on with the show and it’s send in the clowns and the trapeze act
And it’s more of the same and it’s less of a game than a cold hard fact
And most times it’s better not to ask myself how i feel
I’m just the woman on the wheel

I know what you’re thinkin as the knives fly by and they find their mark
You’re thinkin one false move and it’s a real bad day at the amusement park
You wouldn’t wanna be me but you need me just the same
To remind you what you stand to lose and what you stand to gain

They say i’ve 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

© 2008 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing & Gretchen Peters Music (ASCAP)

FIVE MINUTES

by Gretchen Peters

I’ve got five minutes to sneak a cigarette
Five minutes to myself
Back behind the screen door of Andy’s Luncheonette
And I ain’t got time to worry bout my health
My boss Andy says I smoke myself to death
Andy he reminds me some of you
Back when you were Romeo and I was Juliet
West Texas Capulet and Montague

Now i don’t think too much about you anymore
We weren’t much more than kids
it was nearly twenty years ago I shut and locked that door
Now I’ve got five minutes
Not much time to reminisce

Most nights I come home from work and I pour a glass of wine
Sometimes it’s three or four before I stop
And Jessie makes a sandwich if I sleep through suppertime
And she leaves me on the couch to to sleep it off
Now Jessie just turned 17 and she’s wild as she can be
And there ain’t nothin i can do
Last weekend she ran off to meet a boy in Tennessee
Just like I used to run to you

I gave her hell when she came home this afternoon
Mascara runnin down her face
Seems like history repeats itself, and it ain’t up to you
And in five minutes
Your whole life can change

Now Andy he’s good to me, and I can see it in his eyes
He’d love to take your place
But somethin deep inside me just withers up and dies
To make love to him and only see your face

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

©2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

CAMILLE

by Gretchen Peters, Matraca Berg & Suzy Bogguss

The moon had a fight with the parking lot light
And slunk off to hide in the clouds
Now it’s broken bottles, gravel and glass
Keepin’ you company now

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

And you don’t want to cry, and you don’t want to think
And you tell yourself it ain’t no big deal
And you feel like a fool, and you feel like a drink
And you drink so you don’t have to feel
But you still do, don’t you Camille

All your affairs are like last night’s mascara
Darkening the lines round your eyes
Seems like these days you’re just pickin’ up strays
You laugh and say you’re no prize

And 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

© 2008 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing/Gretchen Peters Music (ASCAP), Hannaberg Music, administered by Songs of Universal & Zoe Mahoney Music (BMI)

NATURAL DISASTER

by Gretchen Peters

weatherman says there’s gonna be sun
surely to god i’m not the only one
who’d trade this day for a hurricane
blow 500 miles cross a landlocked state

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 just how it feels
i got pictures hangin’ on the walls
a history that haunts these halls
of you and me, before and after
a natural disaster

we tore through each other like an avalanche
you and me baby we were bound to crash
the higher we flew the harder we fell
from the hem of heaven, to the gates of hell
like a landslide baby on a suicide run
no thought to the damage done
headed straight downhill, faster and faster
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
And there’s a hole where your heart once stood
you know it won’t kill you but you wish it would
cause you don’t want to face the morning after
your natural disaster

weatherman says no chance of rain
but I’m still waiting’ for that hurricane…

© 2011 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)

IDLEWILD

by Gretchen Peters

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

i’m in the back seat, they think i’m sleeping
But i am listening for the cracks between their voices in the dark
We are a family, we are a shipwreck
And we’re picking up my grandma who is getting very old

And they think she’s dying
But I think she’s laughing
I think she’s riding Halley’s comet from Ft. Lauderdale to here
But when I see her
I’ll keep her secret
We all have our secrets that we keep inside ourselves

They built this airport but in a few years
They’ll name it after Kennedy, the one who died today
And he will leave her, and she will suffer
And they will never really know each other at all

They think we’re driving
But i know we’re drifting
They think we’re off on some adventure where the hero saves the day
We think we’re special
We think we’re golden
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…

© 2010 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)

LITTLE WORLD

by Gretchen Peters

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

but from here to the garden gate
where the sweet wild roses wait
it’s a little world, it’s a little world

Between Jupiter and Mars
and these cold and icy stars
we oughta take what earthly comfort we can find
Cause it’s a big and lonely world
and I’m a sad and lonely girl
it’s easy to get lost out there sometimes

but from here to the garden gate
the path is small and straight
and it’s a little world, it’s a little world

two spoons in a kitchen drawer
a dance on a hardwood floor
two shadows move behind a darkened door
a dog with a juicy bone
a sigh from a saxophone
only a fool would wish for more

from here to the garden gate
Is the world that we create
just a little world, it’s a little world

© 2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

NOTES

Hello Cruel World

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.

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)

Saint Francis

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
© 2011 Circus Girl Music & Frontera Music (administered by Bug Music) (ASCAP)

The Matador

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 thrall 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)

Dark Angel

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

“Dark Angel” by Gretchen Peters
©2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

Paradise Found

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)

Woman On The Wheel

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)

Five Minutes

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

“Five Minutes” by Gretchen Peters
© 2010 Circus Girl Music (ASCAP)

Camille

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)

Natural Disaster

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. Lately it seems 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 is hubris, and so 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 will befall us. 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)

Idlewild

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)

Little World

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)

REVIEWS

UNCUT

Gretchen Peters
Hello Cruel World
Scarlet Letter Records
****
Warm and intelligent country songwriting
2007’s Burnt Toast & Offerings established her as the natural successor to Lucinda Williams – this does not contradict the notion. Her songs combine swagger with sensitivity – “I’m a girl without a safety net/I’m a cause for some concern” she boasts on the title track – using simple language and strong themes to sell powerful stories about women and life. “The Matador” – written with Tom Russell, with whom she has much in common – is a marvelous late-Springsteen metaphor masquerading as a border ballad, “Paradise Found” is belting Southern rock, while “Idlewild” offers a personal slant on national drift.  -Peter Watts

Q MAGAZINE

Gretchen Peters
Hello Cruel World
Proper CD/Download
****
Songs for grown-ups. From Nashville.
Probably because her songs have provided rich pickings for others, Gretchen Peters tends to get overlooked as a performer in her own right. A pity, because as Hello Cruel World again shows, she’s a class act. As a singer she’s warm and natural. Still, it’s as a writer where she really shines: lean and poetic, unafraid to tackle the deep, poignant stuff, yet strongly melodic too. With themes ranging from the loss of innocence to questions of faith and the recognition that life, for all its frequent disappointments, is still worth fighting for, it makes for an affecting, beautifully measured, very grown-up affair. –Peter Kane

LONDON TIMES (UK)

Gretchen Peters
Hello Cruel World
Scarlet Letter/Proper

When you find yourself listening to a song in which the entire chorus consists of the singer murmuring “hmm”, you know you are either in the presence of a songwriter who hasn’t quite grasped the rudiments of the craft, or of one who has mastered them so completely, she can do anything she likes. In the case of Gretchen Peters – and the artfully crafted St. Francis – it’s very much the latter. The album’s opening line, “I haven’t done as well as I thought I would”, sets the tone for songs that reflect a traumatic period in the singer’s life, in which she has dealt with eco-disasters on her doorstep, the suicide of a close friend and the news that her son is transgender. It’s not a laugh a minute, then, but Peters’s conclusion that life is “a beautiful disaster” seems nicely, and wryly, balanced.  -Mark Edwards

USA TODAY

Gretchen Peters, Hello Cruel World
* * * 1/2 POP
“It ain’t your fears so much as what your fears reveal,” sings Peters, who has written hits for Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Sara Evans and others. She reveals plenty as she assumes the personae of a knife-thrower’s assistant, a matador’s lover, a luncheonette waitress. Peters faces down her fears with strength and eloquence. — Brian Mansfield, USA Today

ALLMUSIC.COM

Songwriting icon Gretchen Peters underscores the brilliance of 2007’s meditation of love lost and found, Burnt Toast & Offerings, with Hello Cruel World, as if it were a companion. Here, Peters catalogs the travails, wounds, and perils of living and loving in the 21st century; she examines humanity as an extraordinary event, a spiritual opportunity via the tragedies in our personal relationships, our economic disasters, our stupid ideologies, and our brief moments of triumph and celebration with equanimity. Each song refuses escape; Peters’ poetic backbone celebrates the dignity in her protagonists as they struggle and thrive.

In the title track, she mirrors Bob Dylan’s “It’s Not Dark Yet” with the lines “I’m not dead yet, but I’m damaged goods/And it’s gettin late,” in one verse, then refutes his conclusions: “Me, I’m gonna stick around/In for a penny in for a pound/’Cause I hate to miss the show.” With Will Kimbrough’s and Doug Lancio’s guitars, Barry Walsh’s crystalline inventive piano, and Viktor Krauss’ upright bass, Peters finally sets her fine alto free; she speaks with more authority than she ever has. “Saint Francis” offers a haunting metaphoric allegory that examines the high-wire act between our intentions and our actions, and the strange plane where we really care what the neighbors think. “Dark Angel,” in duet with Rodney Crowell, is a hooky country love song that finds beauty in the brokenness of her protagonist’s beloved. There is humor, irony, and sensuality on Hello Cruel World, too. In “Paradise Found,” a jazzy noirish blues, Peters points to “East of Eden” as the place paradise lies, albeit in a very earthly dimension: “When your need is strong and the hour is late/Baby you got the key to my garden gate…” In “Woman on the Wheel,” she uses circus metaphors in a rockist jaunt and reveals:”Sometimes I ask God, please God, just show me what’s behind the door/As if God was Monty Hall and this was Let’s Make a Deal….” Walsh’s piano strolls it out to the ledge and Lancio’s electric guitar knocks it over. “Five Minutes” is a spare, devastating portrait of a woman carrying a torch against her will for an ex. “Idlewild” is delivered from the point of view of a child in a traveling car. Her parents are lost in their own trapped reveries as they go to visit her grandmother on November 22, 1963. This child’s gaze is clear; she already knows the difference between truth and perception via Walsh’s jazz piano and organ wash, David Henry’s cello, and Lancio’s guitar.

Hello Cruel World, with its many versions of Americana, is expertly and sincerely free of cliches, or false romantic notions about any subject it addresses. Its large spiritual truths are revealed in the only way they matter: small, intimate experiences. This album comes to the listener as a gift wrapped in tattered paper, making it all the more precious to receive.   -Thom Jurek

FINANCIAL TIMES (UK)

Gretchen Peters: Hello Cruel World
By Ludovic Hunter-Tilney
Nashville singer-songwriter’s music has the sweet ache of 1970s Tom Waits

Hello Cruel World’s title track introduces a typical Gretchen Peters’ heroine, bruised by life but indomitable; a point reinforced by the way the song’s lush country-pop rises and falls. Best of all is “Five Minutes” in which the Nashville singer-songwriter imagines a luncheonette waitress on a cigarette break, reflecting on teenage pregnancy and romantic disappointment.
The music has the sweet ache of 1970s Tom Waits while the lyrics pack an extraordinary amount of story-telling into five minutes.

DAILY MIRROR (UK)

Gretchen Peters
Hello Cruel World
****
Nashville-based Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Peters has always been a class act, but the blend of fearlessness and beauty in the songs on this album raises her game. Her empathetic vocal and cast of collaborators put a premium on simplicity and directness.

MAVERICK (UK)

Gretchen Peters
Hello Cruel World
(Scarlet Letter)

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters is still best-known as a writer for such major stars as Martina McBride, George Strait, Bryan Adams, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill, Pam Tillis and many others, despite the fact that over the past sixteen years or so she’s released some superb albums and has toured extensively, especially in the UK where she commands a strong and loyal underground following. Despite those hits for more famous artists, arguably, the best interpretations of Gretchen’s songs are her own. This latest album is ample proof of that fact, with a selection of eleven songs that explore the human frailties with great sensitivity, honesty and pure emotion. In many respects, as the title suggests, this can be viewed as a concept or protest album, except Gretchen doesn’t often make her targets that identifiable, nor spend that much of any song taking a platform or addressing social ills. Instead, she presents profiles and portraits of unusual characters and odd situations, sometimes raising and then answering questions, but on other occasions simply stating ugly facts and moving on through the song. The results are a fascinating collision via song between what she hopes will happen and what she’s seen suggests will occur. There is a shimmering sonic quality throughout the album that is polished but not too slick. The arrangements are built around Gretchen’s distinctive acoustic guitar and husband Barry Walsh’s keyboards. Adding to the album’s gorgeous instrumental mélange is versatile guitarists Will Kimbrough and Doug Lancio, bassist Viktor Krauss and trumpeter Vinnie Ciesielski all capable of both subtlety and force.

The songs take a few listens to really involve the listener, none more so than Idlewild, a song that though very personal to Gretchen, is actually universal in its story of an unravelling marriage break-up through the eyes of a child interspersed with the unravelling of the American myth that everything is ok in the world because you’re living in the land of the free … such innocence, both a child’s and a country’s, is demolished in just over five-minutes of pure songwriting poetry. That leads into album closer Little World that puts our existence, both personal and on a world-wide scale, into perspective. She explores the endless questions of faith and spirituality in songs like St Francis with ethereal harmonies provided by Kim Richey or the powerful Dark Angel with Rodney Crowell adding his distinctive vocal to possibly the album’s standout track. There’s no question about it, Hello Cruel World is a jewel—surely it will end up as the most important record to emerge in 2012.