The Essential Gretchen Peters

Artist
Gretchen Peters
Released
2016
Genre
Singer-Songwriter

Listen to The Essential Gretchen Peters in its entirety.

  1. Blackbirds -:-- / -:--
  2. The Aviator’s Song -:-- / -:--
  3. The Secret Of Life -:-- / -:--
  4. If Heaven -:-- / -:--
  5. When All You Got Is A Hammer -:-- / -:--
  6. On A Bus To St. Cloud (previously unreleased, 2015 -:-- / -:--
  7. The Matador -:-- / -:--
  8. Sunday Morning (Up And Down My Street) -:-- / -:--
  9. Guadalupe (with Tom Russell) -:-- / -:--
  10. Hello Cruel World -:-- / -:--
  11. When You Love Someone (with Bryan Adams) -:-- / -:--
  12. Five Minutes -:-- / -:--
  13. When You Are Old -:-- / -:--
  14. The Way You Move Me (Nashville demo, 2008) -:-- / -:--
  15. Ring Around The Moon (unreleased, 2014) -:-- / -:--
  16. Pretty Things (radio edit) -:-- / -:--
  17. The Cruel Mother (Blackbirds bonus track, recorded 2011) -:-- / -:--
  18. Woman On The Wheel (recorded live at the Rutledge, Nashville, TN 2012) -:-- / -:--
  19. When You Wish Upon A Star (from Bandaged Together, a benefit for Children In Need, 2009) used by permission -:-- / -:--
  20. I Saw Your Light (Gretchen Peters bonus track, 2000) -:-- / -:--
  21. Love (John Lennon) (from And We All Shine On, a tribute to John Lennon, 2012) used by permission -:-- / -:--
  22. The Chill Of An Early Fall (demo, 2004) -:-- / -:--
  23. Independence Day (acoustic version) (Blackbirds bonus track, recorded 2014) -:-- / -:--
  24. Wild Horses (Wine, Women & Song – The Sewanee Sessions, 2008 -:-- / -:--
  25. The Answer (work tape, 2011) -:-- / -:--
  26. Blackbirds (duet with Ben Glover) (work tape, 2013) -:-- / -:--
  27. Five Minutes (work tape, 2011) -:-- / -:--

LYRICS

Blackbirds

by Gretchen Peters/Ben Glover

The blackbirds came at dusk and they roosted in the cane
raised such a ruckus that it shook my windowpane
And I’m covered up in dirt and I stink of kerosene
and no matter what I do I can’t get clean

last thing i remember was your footsteps in the hall
whisky in your voice and a shotgun on the wall
now there’s shadows in the shadows, there’s trouble in the cane
and there’s things you do that you just can’t explain

Uneasy lies the head – unfaithful is the heart
ungrateful and unlucky and untrue
And no one saw me coming, and no one saw me go
Only the blackbirds and you

come harvest in the cane fields the sky turns black with smoke
so I took our father’s gun and a heavy piece of rope
and I left you lying there like rotten fruit upon the ground
and I lit a torch and I burned the whole thing down

Uneasy lies the head – unfaithful is the heart
ungrateful and unlucky and untrue
And no one saw me coming, and no one saw me go
Only the blackbirds and you

our father was a farmer he planted fields of cane
he planted seeds of evil and we harvested the shame
Oh but I’m the last one standing there’s no one left to tell
and when it’s my time I’ll see you both in hell

Circus Girl Music/administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP) and Carpe Vita Creative (PRS)

The Aviator’s Song

by Gretchen Peters

You fell out of the sky when you were 21
Your bomber took a bullet from a German gun
Did you think about your wife
Your brief and tender life
Did you pray to anyone?

How does it feel when you’re falling
Can you hear sweet angels calling
Is it empty up in space
Did you touch God’s holy face
Did you tremble, did you cry
Did you fall or did you fly

You fell out of your life when you were 43
You saw her and you thought she was your destiny
You wandered from the path
And we cursed your aftermath
But that’s ancient history

Chorus

You make it so damn hard to love you
I don’t know why i even try
And all i ever wanted of you
To take me with you when you fly

You fell out of my life one last time today
I held your hand and watched you as you slipped away
You cast your pilot’s eye to the endless open sky
And i sent you on your way

Chorus

© 2002 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

The Secret Of Life

by Gretchen Peters

Couple of guys sittin’ around drinkin’ down at the Starlight Bar
One of ’em says, you know I been thinkin’ – other one says that won’t get you too far
He says this is your life and welcome to it – it’s just workin’ and drinkin’ and dreams
Ad on the TV says “Just do it” – hell if I know what that means…

The secret of life is a good cup of coffee
The secret of life is keep your eye on the ball
The secret of life is a beautiful woman
And Marilyn stares down from the barroom wall…

You and me, we’re just a couple of zeroes – just a couple of down-and-outs
But movie stars and football heroes – what’ve they got to be unhappy about?
So they turn to the bartender, “Sam, what do you think – what’s the key that unlocks that door?”
Sam don’t say nothin’, he just wipes down the bar and he pours ’em a couple more

Cause the secret of life is in Sam’s martinis
The secret of life is in Marilyn’s eyes
The secret of life is in Monday night football
And Rolling Stones records and Mom’s apple pies

Sam looks up from his Sunday paper – he says boys you’re on the wrong track
The secret of life is there ain’t no secret and you don’t get your money back

The secret of life is gettin’ up early
The secret of life is stayin’ up late
The secret of life is try not to hurry
But don’t wait, don’t wait…
The secret of life is a good cup of coffee
The secret of life is keep your eye on the ball
The secret of life is to find the right woman
The secret of life is nothin’ at all

© 1994 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

If Heaven

by Gretchen Peters

If heaven was an hour it would be twilight
When the fireflies start their dancin’ on the lawn
And supper’s on the stove and mama’s laughin’
And everybody’s working day is done

If heaven was a town it would be my town
On a summer day in 1965
And everything i wanted was out there waiting
And everyone i loved was still alive

Don’t cry a tear for me now baby
Comes a time we all must say good bye
And if that’s what heaven’s made of
You know i ain’t afraid to die

If heaven was a pie it would be cherry
Cool and sweet and heavy on your tongue
And just one bite would satisfy your hunger
And there’d always be enough for everyone

If heaven was a train it’d be a fast one
To take this weary traveler round the bend
And if heaven was a tear it’d be my last one
And you’d be in my arms again

Don’t cry a tear for me now baby
Comes a time we all must say good bye
And if that’s what heaven’s made of
You know i ain’t afraid to die

© 2002 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

When All You Got Is A Hammer

by Gretchen Peters

There’s a bible on the table
There’s a bottle on the shelf
There’s a woman in the kitchen
Cryin’ quietly to herself
Down the hallway, in the bedroom
He can hear his children wail
When all you got is a hammer
Everything looks like a nail

Well he came home from the desert
With a medal on his chest
Like a hero, like a champion
But he felt more like a guest
Now he sleeps with one eye open
And he wakes up scared as hell
And all he’s got is a hammer
And everything looks like a nail

Well they show you how to shoot and they show you how to kill
But they don’t show you what to do with this hole that you can’t fill
So you dwell in the darkness of your soul like Jonah in the belly of the whale
And all you got is a hammer and everything looks like a nail

When a good man in a bad dream
Can’t make it on his own
When he can’t feed his own damn children
On the money that he brings home
And the deck is stacked against him
And he knows he’s bound to fail
And all he’s got is a hammer
Everything looks like a nail

© 2014 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

On A Bus To St. Cloud

by Gretchen Peters

On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer
And once on a street in New York City
With the jazz and the sin in the air
And once on a cold L.A. freeway
Going nowhere

And it’s strange, but it’s true
I was sure it was you
Just a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

In a church in downtown New Orleans
I got down on my knees and prayed
And I wept in the arms of Jesus
For the choice you made
We were just gettin’ to the good part
Just gettin’ past the mystery
Oh, and it’s just like you, just like you
To disagree

And it’s strange but it’s true
You just slipped out of view
Like a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

And you chase me like a shadow
And you haunt me like a ghost
And I hate you some, and I love you some
But I miss you most…

On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer

© 1994 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (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
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

© 2010 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

Sunday Morning (Up And Down My Street)

by Gretchen Peters

There’s a dog a’barking
There’s no Sunday parking
No standing nine to noon
And the air is breezy
And the day breaks easy
And the traffic hums a tune

There’s a Sunday paper
And a sleepy neighbor
And a cat curled at your feet
There’s a breakfast frying
And a baby crying
And your smile is all I need

And we’re talking (and i love to hear you)
And we’re laughing (and i love to see you)
And we’re taking time and making love so sweet
And the birds sing (i can hear them singing)
And the bells ring (i can hear them ringing)
And it’s Sunday morning up and down my street

Where the sidewalk’s broken
There’s a cafe open
People spilling out the door
And you’re softly hummin’
And the day is comin’
When we won’t be sad no more

And we’re talking (and i love to hear you)
And we’re laughing (and i love to see you)
And we’re taking time and making love so sweet
And the birds sing (i can hear them singing)
And the bells ring (i can hear them ringing)
And it’s Sunday morning up and down my street

And we’re talking (there’s a dog a’barking)
And we’re laughing (there’s no Sunday parking)
And we’re taking time and making love so sweet
And the birds sing (and you’re softly humming)
And the bells ring (and the day is coming)
And it’s Sunday morning up and down my street

© 2005 Sony/ATV Tunes & Gretchen Peters Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

Guadalupe

by Tom Russel

There are ghosts out in the rain tonight
High up in those ancient trees
And I have given up without a fight
Another blind fool on his knees

And all the gods that I’ve abandoned
Begin to speak in simple tongue
And suddenly I’ve come to know
That there are no roads left to run

Now it’s the hour of dogs a’barking
That’s what the old ones used to say
It’s first light or it’s sundown
Before the children cease their play

When the mountains glow like mission wine
Or turn grey like a Spanish roan
A thousand eyes will stop to worship
Then turn away and head for home

She is reaching out her arms tonight
And, yes, my poverty is real
I pray roses shall rain down again
From Guadalupe on her hill

And who am I to doubt these mysteries?
Cured in centuries of blood and candle smoke?
I am the least of all your pilgrims here
But I am most in need of hope

She appeared to Juan Diego
She left her image on his cape
Five hundred years of sorrow
Cannot destroy his deepest faith

So here I am, your ragged disbeliever
Old doubting Thomas drowns in tears
As I watch your church sink through the earth
Like a heart worn down through fear

© 2008 Frontera Music/ASCAP

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)

When You Love Someone

by Gretchen Peters/Bryan Adams/Michael Kamen

When you love someone
You’ll do anything
You’ll do all the crazy things that you can’t explain
You’ll shoot the moon
Put out the sun
When you love someone

You’ll deny the truth
Believe a lie
There’ll be times when you believe that you can really fly
But your lonely nights
Have just begun
When you love someone

When you love someone
You feel it deep inside
And nothing else
Can ever change your mind
When you want someone – when you need someone
When you love someone

When you love someone
You’ll sacrifice
Give it everything you’ve got and you won’t think twice
You’ll risk it all
No matter what may come
When you love someone

You’ll shoot the moon
Put out the sun
When you love someone

© 1998 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (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
It 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 workin’ and the livin’ and the ghosts that haunt my dreams
I’ve got five minutes and I’m gonna smoke this cigarette

© 2010 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

When You Are Old

by Gretchen Peters

When you are old and tired and gray
And wear your overcoat on sunny days
When your brave tales have all been told
I’ll ask for them when you are old

When you are old and full of sleep
And death no longer makes you weep
When your body aches with cold
I’ll warm your heart when you are old

And you’ll still be the same to me
A comfort and a mystery
And I will be old too, you see
I’ll need someone to comfort me

When you are old and pale and gaunt
And a gentle hand is all you want
I will give you mine to hold
I’ll be here when you are old

© 1991 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

The Way You Move Me (demo)

by Gretchen Peters

It’s something like grace
The way you look at me
Kinda like you see me
In my finest hour
It’s something like church
The way it’s supposed to be
When I get down on my knees and feel the power

It’s kinda like a wildfire
Burnin up the mountainside
It’s kinda like a freight train
Comin off the track
It’s kinda like a freefall
The way i feel inside
When there ain’t no turning back

If i cried a thousand tears
If i lived a thousand years
I could never find a way to make you see
I’ll never understand the way you move me

You left your words
All across my memory
You left your mark
Like a burning brand
You left your fingerprints
All over me
And now you’re everywhere i am

If i cried a thousand tears
If i lived a thousand years
I could never find a way to make you see
I’ll never understand the way you move me

© 2004 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

Ring Around The Moon

by Ben Bullington

The dogs are barkin’ I don’t know why
Must be something stirring outside
There’s the wild blue yonder, then there’s you and I
Come on baby hold me tight
There’s a ring around the moon tonight

Red sky at morning take warning
Red sky at night they say’s a sailor’s delight
I dream of the country I was born in
Come on baby hold me tight
There’s a ring around the moon tonight
Sometimes words ain’t where I want ‘em to be
Sometimes they don’t say what I want ‘em to mean
My heart’s still hopeful when it’s down on its knees
Come on baby hold me tight
There’s a ring around the moon tonight

©2008 Wind Whipped Songs. ASCAP

Pretty Things (radio edit)

by Gretchen Peters/Ben Glover

I knew a girl who said that beauty kills
Dulled the pain with wine and pills
Took that slow ride down the hill to nowhere
She said Pompeii crumbled and Athens fell
Heathens stormed the citadel
A girl like me ain’t got a chance in hell against ’em

Oh pretty things, pretty things gone to ruin

Rained three days, when we awoke
Sun came out and the levee broke
Like some cruel and cosmic joke God’s playing
Now I don’t pretend that I believe
I know there ain’t no guarantees
Still morning finds me on my knees and praying

Oh pretty things, pretty things gone to ruin

Come the flood you build an ark
Come the night you curse the dark
Inside your broken heart you bear the crosses
Some of us have got it made
Some of us have more than paid
But we’re all marching in this slow parade of losses

Oh pretty things, pretty things gone to ruin

© 2014 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP) and Carpe Vita Creative (PRS)

The Cruel Mother

Traditional

There was a lady near the town – Low so low and so lonely,
She walked all night and all around – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

She leaned her back against a thorn – Low so low and so lonely,
Two little babies she had born – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

She took a rope so long and neat – Low so low and so lonely,
She tied them down both hands & feet – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

She took a knife so keen and sharp – Low so low and so lonely,
She pierced it through each tender heart – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

She buried them under the marble stone – Low so low and so lonely,
Then she turned and went on home – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

As she walked out one moonlit night – Low so low and so lonely,
She saw two babes all dressed in white – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

‘Oh babes oh babes if you were mine’- Low so low and so lonely,
‘I’d dress you up in silk so fine’ — Down in the greenwoods of ivy

‘Oh Mother, Oh Mother when we were yours’ – Low so low and so lonely,
‘You dressed us in our own hearts’ blood’ – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

You wiped your penknife on your shoe – Low so low and so lonely,
The more you wiped, the bloodier it grew – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

You buried us under the marble stone – Low so low and so lonely,
You turned and went a maiden home – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

Oh babes oh babes come tell me true – Low so low and so lonely,
What death must I die for you – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

For seven years you shall ring the bell – Low so low and so lonely,
For seven years you’ll wait in hell – Down in the greenwoods of ivy

Woman On The Wheel (live)

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 wheel 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 Tunes & Gretchen Peters Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

When You Wish Upon A Star

by Leigh Harline/Ned Washington

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
Like dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and pulls you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dream comes true

©1940 Bourne Co (ASCAP)

I Saw Your Light

by Gretchen Peters

I was a long lost soul
I was a burnt out case
I felt my heart grow old
I wore a stranger’s face
I built a wall so high
I built a gulf so wide
I saw my life go by
On the other side

I wasn’t looking for a miracle
Just hoping for relief
But you gave me something to believe

I saw your light
And i was changed, I was changed
I saw your light
And nothing is the same
Maybe all of us are weak
Maybe love is fast asleep
In the middle of an endless night
But i saw your light

I’ve come a long, long way
I’ve walked a crooked road
And there was hell to pay
And there were miles to go
I thought i’d lost my nerve
I thought i’d lost my spark
And life had thrown a curve
And i was in the dark

I wasn’t looking for a miracle
Just hoping for relief
But you gave me something to believe

Chorus

© 2000 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

Love

by John Lennon

Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved
Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved
Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
We can be
Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needing to be loved

© 1970 Lenono Music administered by EMI Music Publishing (BMI)

The Chill Of An Early Fall (demo)

by Gretchen Peters/Green Daniel

Well an old friend from his old end of town dropped by today
And way down deep inside me something died
When she came ’round to see him that way
Here it comes again, that same old chilly wind will blow
Like a cold winter squall
And I’ll begin to feel the chill of an early fall

And I’ll be drinkin’ again
And thinkin’ whenever she calls
There’s a storm comin’ on
And it won’t be too long ’til the snow falls
Oh, I’ll be sober some
But when October comes and goes
In no time at all
I’ll begin to feel the chill of an early fall

Oh how quick they slip away
Here today and gone tomorrow
Love and seasons never stay
Bitter winds are sure to follow

Now there’s no doubt it’s gonna be cold out tonight, I’ve shivered all day
And when I look in his eyes, needin’ to hold him so tight, he just looks away
Oh, he’ll swear that it’s true, she’s just someone he knew long ago
But I’ll know that’s not all
And I’ll begin to feel the chill of an early fall

© 1991 WB Music Corp/No Chapeau Music (ASCAP)

Independence Day (acoustic version)

by Gretchen Peters

Well she seemed all right by dawn’s early light
Though she looked a little worried and weak
She tried to pretend he wasn’t drinkin’ again
But Daddy’d left the proof on her cheek
And I was only eight years old that summer
And I always seemed to be in the way
So I took myself down to the fair in town
On Independence Day

Well word gets around in a small, small town
They said he was a dangerous man
Mama was proud and she stood her ground
But she knew she was on the losin’ end
Some folks whispered and some just talked
But everybody looked the other way
And when time ran out there was no one about
On Independence Day

Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day

Well she lit up the sky that fourth of July
By the time that the firemen come
They just put out the flames, took down some names
And sent me to the county home
Oh, and I ain’t sayin’ it’s right or it’s wrong
But maybe it’s the only way
Talk about your revolution
It’s Independence Day

Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day

© 1993 Sony/ATV Tunes & Purple Crayon Music, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)

Wild Horses (with Matraca Berg & Suzy Bogguss)

by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted, I bought them for you
Graceless lady, you know who I am
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain
And now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exit or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

I know I dreamed you, a sin and a lie
I have my freedom, but I don’t have much time
Faith has been broken; tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we’ve died

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday

© 1969 ABKCO Music (BMI)

The Answer (work tape)

by Gretchen Peters/Lori McKenna

I believe in a strong cup of coffee
Dressing up for church on Sunday
And taking it all in
I believe in shooting star wishes
And doing the dishes
In bare feet to the radio

I believe in parking lot ferris wheels
Ice cream in high heels
And holding hands in the dark
I believe in a fresh coat of paint
In the passing of time
In the falling of rain

I believe in the kindness of strangers
That compassion will take us
The rest of the way home
I believe that we can do better
That we’re in this together
That we’re never alone

I believe in the wisdom of the heart
And that laughter and tears
Are just a breath apart
I believe that God does exist
That it’s never over
Except when it is

Chorus

I believe in long conversations
At the end of the driveway
Instead of going home mad
I believe that love is the answer
That love is the answer
To every question we have

© 2011 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)/Songs of Universal, Inc. / Hoodie Songs (BMI).  All rights for Hoodie Songs controlled and administered by Songs of Universal, Inc.

Blackbirds (with Ben Glover – work tape)

by Gretchen Peters/Ben Glover

The blackbirds came at dusk and they roosted in the cane
Raised such a ruckus that it shook my windowpane
And I’m covered up in dirt and I stink of kerosene
And no matter what I do I can’t get clean

Last thing i remember was your footsteps in the hall
Whiskey in your voice and a shotgun on the wall
Now there’s shadows in the shadows, there’s trouble in the cane
And there’s things you do that you just can’t explain

Uneasy lies the head – unfaithful is the heart
Ungrateful and unlucky and untrue
And no one saw me coming, and no one saw me go
Only the blackbirds and you

Come harvest in the cane fields the sky turns black with smoke
So you took our father’s gun and a heavy piece of rope
And I left you lying there like rotten fruit upon the ground
And I lit a torch and I burned the whole thing down

Uneasy lies the head – unfaithful is the heart
Ungrateful and unlucky and untrue
And no one saw me coming, and no one saw me go
Only the blackbirds and you

Our father was a farmer he planted fields of cane
He planted seeds of evil and we harvested the shame
Oh and I’m the last one standing there’s no one left to tell
And when it’s my time I’ll see you both in hell

© 2013 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP) and Carpe Vita Creative (PRS)

Five Minutes (work tape)

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
It 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 workin’ and the livin’ and the ghosts that haunt my dreams
I’ve got five minutes and I’m gonna smoke this cigarette

© 2010 Circus Girl Music, administered by Carnival Music (ASCAP)

NOTES

Disc One

1. Blackbirds (Gretchen Peters/Ben Glover) (from the album Blackbirds, 2015)
This was the first song Ben Glover and I wrote together. When we went into the studio to record the Blackbirds album I was still undecided whether to do a fast or slow version of the song; there were things I like about both. We decided to record it both ways, and afterwards my coproducers Doug Lancio, Barry Walsh and I were still on the fence. It was Doug’s idea to bookend the album with both versions; this one opens the album.

2. The Aviator’s Song (from the album Halcyon, 2004)
I wrote this song about my father. Each verse is essentially a chapter from his life. Although it’s very specifically about him (the first verse describes his being shot down over Germany during World War II), somehow it struck a universal nerve with fans. It was a staple in my set list for years after Halcyon was released.

3. The Secret of Life (from the album The Secret of Life, 1996)
The title song from my debut album. This was the song that got me my record deal; it sounded very different from other records being made in Nashville in the 1990’s, and that was both the blessing and the curse. The Secret of Life album never took off in the US, but it was a different story in the UK, where it received airplay and critical acclaim. A few months after it was released I made my first trip over the pond, where I played a total of four shows to a handful of people each night. Faith Hill made this song a country hit in 1998.

4. If Heaven (from the album Halcyon, 2004)
I had written all the verses for “If Heaven” but was stuck for a chorus. It was such a simple, folky song I felt like it needed more of a refrain, if anything. The chorus finally came to me months later, while I was in the process of writing the songs for Halcyon. Andy Griggs had a top 10 country hit with it in 2004, and it has been played at many funerals and memorial services. I sang it at the memorial for my dear friend and first publisher, Noel Fox in 2003.

5. When All You Got Is A Hammer (from the album Blackbirds, 2015)
The first single from Blackbirds. I’d tucked the lines “When all you got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” away in my notebook, not knowing exactly what to do with them. Weeks later it dawned on me that it was perfect metaphor for what soldiers encounter when they return home from war. Trained for one kind of world, they come home to a very different one and are often at a loss as to how to cope.

6. On A Bus To St. Cloud (previously unreleased, 2015)
Of all the songs I’ve written, this one is probably the most popular with fans, and definitely with other singers (it’s been recorded many times). I’ve never gotten tired of singing it, and I still seem to find new things in its lyrics and melody over 20 years later. It’s never left the set list. I’d long wanted to update it to reflect how I’m singing and playing it now, and The Essential seemed like the perfect opportunity.

7. The Matador (from the album Hello Cruel World, 2012)
From a songwriting point of view, this may be my favorite of all of my songs. I wrote it over a five day period when I had planned to be finishing up a handful of other songs. This one entered my brain and took over for five days. It deals with love and art, and men and women, and the duality of the creative process. I almost feel as if it wrote me.

8. Sunday Morning (Up And Down My Street) (from the album Burnt Toast & Offerings, 2008)
Although Burnt Toast & Offerings was my “divorce album”, this song is a (mostly) happy vignette of life in my then-newly adopted neighborhood in Nashville. The Burnt Toast album was my first coproduction with Doug Lancio, and this song bloomed so beautifully under his oversight. It got a great reception on BBC Radio 2 and is still played on the odd Sunday morning there.

9. Guadalupe (with Tom Russell) (Tom Russell) (from the album One To The Heart, One To The Head, 2009)
When Tom Russell and I were choosing songs for the One To The Heart, One To The Head album, this one had just been written and was an obvious choice for our Western-themed project. I wanted to sing it very badly – it’s a beautiful melody and under the right circumstances it is goosebump-inducing for both singer and audience. It’s become one of our most requested songs at shows.

10. Hello Cruel World (from the album Hello Cruel World, 2012)
Hello Cruel World was my manifesto album – I felt I’d laid myself bare in the songs and I was ready to live or die by them. This song in particular was vulnerable, revealing and a little scary to let loose on the world. Those are always the ones that people respond to most strongly, though – if you’re brave enough to say what you’re thinking at 4am, you’ll find you have a whole lot of company.

11. When You Love Someone (with Bryan Adams) (Gretchen Peters/Bryan Adams/Michael Kamen) (previously unreleased, 2015)
Probably my favorite song written with Bryan Adams. Bryan’s version was the end-title song to the movie “Hope Floats”. He’s an absolutely amazing singer, and I adore singing with him, so it was a natural to re-record this as a duet. I envisioned it almost Everly Brothers-ish, a simple folky love song, which is how we’ve sung it live several times at his shows.

12. Five Minutes (from the album Hello Cruel World, 2012)
This one nearly didn’t make the Hello Cruel World album. I wasn’t sure it would fit with the rest of the songs, but on a Wine, Women & Song tour of the UK in 2011 I decided to put one of my new songs in the set list to see how it would go over. It was magic every night, and after the tour ended there was no question that it would have a place on the album. Aside from “On A Bus To St. Cloud” it’s my most requested song.

13. When You Are Old (from the album The Secret of Life, 1996)
The first single from my debut album. Played on BBC Radio 2 to this day, and beloved by Sir Terry Wogan (bless him), who chose it as one of his Desert Island Discs and played it on his final show in 2009. It didn’t fare so well in the US, peaking on the Country Chart in the sixties. Played at weddings and funerals, somehow it found its way to people’s hearts and is still requested at live shows today.

Disc Two

1. The Way You Move Me (Nashville demo, 2008)
I was asked by my publisher to record a version of this song which was “less weird” than the version on Burnt Toast & Offerings; so that it could be pitched to Nashville artists for potential recording. We didn’t find any takers, but the demo came out wonderfully well, although I’m still partial to the “weird” version that Doug Lancio and I created.

2. Ring Around The Moon (Ben Bullington) (unreleased, 2014)
Ben Bullington was a Montana country doctor, a vintage guitar fanatic, a good friend and a quietly devastating singer-songwriter. He had a circle of friends and admirers that included Rodney Crowell, Darrell Scott and Will Kimbrough, so you know he was quality. Barry Walsh and I recorded this Bullington gem for a tribute record after Ben died in 2013; when the project was shelved indefinitely I asked permission to include our recording on The Essential. Of course, I recorded it on my vintage 1957 Gibson J-45, as Ben would have wanted it.

3. Pretty Things (Gretchen Peters/Ben Glover) (radio edit, 2015)
The radio edit created for the second single from Blackbirds. It was surprisingly painless to edit this song down to a radio-friendly time; BBC Radio 2 rewarded our efforts by playlisting it for almost two months.

4. The Cruel Mother (traditional) (Blackbirds bonus track, recorded 2011)
Originally a bonus track given to those who pre-ordered the Blackbirds album, this track begged to see the light of day but due to its length it was hard to find a place for it. Disc Two of The Essential was the answer. A Child ballad from the 17th century, it’s a chilling morality tale about an unwed mother who kills her children to hide her pregnancy, and is haunted by them. It’s been sung under different titles, with different melodies and verses for hundreds of years. I recorded it with Barry Walsh at our home in Nashville, and David Henry added the cello later.

5. Woman On The Wheel (recorded live at The Rutledge, Nashville, TN, 2012)
Recorded at the album release party for Hello Cruel World, this live track features almost all the same musicians who played on the album; Doug Lancio on electric guitar, Barry Walsh on keyboards, David Henry on bass, and John Gardner on drums.

6. When You Wish Upon A Star (Leigh Harline/Ned Washington) (from Bandaged Together, a benefit for Children In Need, 2009) used by permission
I recorded this classic Disney song for a CD benefitting the BBC Children in Need Appeal. We recorded the basic track at home, with bassist Viktor Krauss in the living room and me in a hallway. We had no eye contact and no metronome or click track, so we had to sense each other’s movements and timing purely by listening. It was one of my favorite recording sessions ever. Later we added Christine Bougie’s lap steel and Barry Walsh’s glockenspiel.

7. I Saw Your Light (Gretchen Peters bonus track, 2000)
A bonus track on the re-released version of my second, eponymous album, this song was originally written for a movie but didn’t make the cut. Lee Ann Womack recorded it in 2002.

8. Love (John Lennon) (from And We All Shine On, a tribute to John Lennon, 2012) used by permission
My dear friend Steve Marcantonio (who engineered my first and second albums) was the mastermind behind this project honoring John Lennon and benefitting the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund. Steve was assistant engineer on Lennon’s last recording session at the Record Plant in New York City. He asked me to sing this song, which we recorded at Starstruck, Reba McEntire’s studio in Nashville.

9. The Chill Of An Early Fall (Gretchen Peters/Green Daniel) (demo, 2004)
My first hit. I’d never recorded this song, and never sung it live (to this day I’ve only sung it a handful of times), but this version surfaced just as I was looking for tracks to include on Disc Two of The Essential. It sounds about like it probably did when it was written in 1990.

10. Independence Day (acoustic version) (Blackbirds bonus track, recorded 2014)
A song that changed my life, and sometimes the elephant in the room, “Independence Day” has been revered, reviled, misunderstood and misused for over 20 years now. For the record: it is not a patriotic anthem. It is a story about domestic abuse. It is also a song that seemed to define me so much that I had to put it away for awhile. When I picked it up again I approached it from a completely different angle – slowed down, and played on the piano. Somehow I was able to reconnect with it as if it were a new song, and audiences seemed, in some cases, to hear it again for the first time. Somehow it became mine again.

11. Wild Horses (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) (Wine, Women & Song – The Sewanee Sessions, 2008)
When I sing with my friends Matraca Berg and Suzy Bogguss, we are always looking for the sweet spot, three part harmony-wise. Although we have some serious writing credentials between the three of us, there is no cover song that escapes our notice, and this one is one of our favorites. The very high harmony on the repeat chorus is one of my favorite things to sing, ever.

12. The Answer (Gretchen Peters/Lori McKenna) (work tape, 2011)
Lori and I wrote this song at her house in Stoughton, Massachusetts on a funky little “apartment piano” she has. We wrote it in an hour or two and then went out to lunch at Panera. I recorded this work tape after I got home to Nashville, but I still imagined the sound of that out of tune little piano in her living room.

13. Blackbirds (duet with Ben Glover) (Gretchen Peters/Ben Glover) (work tape, 2013)
Sometime after writing “Blackbirds” with Ben Glover, it dawned on me that a murder/incest ballad involving a brother and a sister would be extra creepy if sung as a duet between them. I was a little worried that might be going too far, but I asked Ben what he thought. He thought it was a great idea. We switched a pronoun here and there, and recorded this work tape in my living room to see what it might sound like. Barry Walsh played piano.

14. Five Minutes (work tape, 2011)
This work tape for “Five Minutes” was recorded the afternoon I finished the song. Sometimes there’s an immediacy about the first time you record something that you never quite catch again. I can hear that here – it’s new, unfamiliar, almost as if the story is unfolding before my eyes as well as the listener’s.