When it comes to poetry, I can think of no other songwriter who gets it the way Gretchen Peters does. A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Peters wrote “Independence Day,” which became a huge hit for Martina McBride. “Independence Day” catapulted Peters to the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year award in 1995.
She sang it in Lewisville, offering up a solo acoustic version, complemented by her own deft work on the piano.
Peters shared with the crowd how vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin co-opted the song during the 2008 campaign, against Peters’ wishes, and how the songwriter sought to “reclaim” it and restore the full luster of its poetry. It is not a flag-waving anthem, as Palin sought to make it by seizing only on the chorus and not the rest of the lyrics, which read like the pages of a chilling work of fiction.
It’s a song about a battered woman who puts an end to being a victim, who seeks her own “Independence Day.”
My own favorite song of Peters’ is “Idlewild,” which chronicles the 1960s as well as any poem I’ve ever heard. It carries a truism common to all great songs or great poems: You learn something new every time you hear it.
Peters led a lyrical parade of tunes from her new album, Dancing with the Beast, whose entries shimmer like finely crafted short stories, albeit with a dark undercurrent that profiles its hard-life heroines in strikingly different ways. She also sang her achingly beautiful “Five Minutes,” which actress Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) has covered with her band, Sadie and Hotheads.
To read this review in its entirety, visit the Dallas Morning News.