Thursday, 22 November 2012

'Albums for Life' AND 'Toronto Tim Says': 93: Gretchen Peters: Hello Cruel World

Here's where I hand over to Canadian friend Tim Patrick.
He's waxing lyrical about Gretchen Peters.
Kind of freaky as I was listening to this album as his email landed. 
I sometimes wonder if he has a one way Skype thing going on...
I know 'Hello Cruel World' well and endorse Tim's enthusiasm so much that I'm presenting it as a kind of 2 for 1 deal. 
You get 'Albums for Life' and 'TT Says' in one hit.
I also recommend the album that Peters made with Tom Russell, 'One to the Heart, One to the Head'.
There's a fine intro' to her work; the compilation 'Circus Girl'.
She lives on the same street as the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin; it sounds mainstream but there is a keenness to the narratives; an underlying tenderness to the domestic dramas that is strangely compelling; it's like being lectured and lullabied by a motherly matron with an MA in 'Maudlin' and a penchant for chocolate and Cheever.
One song? 
Try 'Breakfast At Our House' which for some reason was left off 'Circus Girl'.

Here's Toronto Tim:

One of my favorite albums of 2012, Gretchen Peters' "Hello Cruel World" blurs genres of country/folk/americana/pop. Her dark, narrative character sketches of flawed humans are rich with poetic imagery and searing honesty.

"Idlewild" is one of the finest pieces of songwriting I've heard in awhile. There is a profound allegory here that reminds me of the of Joe Henry's equally potent "Our Song". Both couple very personal experiences, whilst presenting a biting assessment of American arrogance and loss of direction. 

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 Fort 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 Vietcong
Everything changes, everything stays the same
And the moon hangs over Idlewild as the planes touch down,

"Five Minutes" simple portrayal of a waitress on a cigarette-break reflecting on the humdrum and heartbreak of a squandered life can't help but be moving in it's stark realism. 

"Little World" is a little more hopeful yet still just as rooted, with a Springsteen "Secret Garden" vibe that is lovely. 

"St. Francis", "Natural Diaster", "The Matador" are all masterful. 

Her back-catalogue contains some fine gems as well, mixed amongst some more twangy tunes; several that she crafted and were made hits by Nashville's glitterati. 
Have a listen to a very fine singer-songwriter...


  1. Thank sTim / Trev - new ot me but really like it and the lyrics you quote are stunning

  2. Wow, this really made me sit up and listen! After hearing these samples and a dig around You Tube 'Hello Cruel World' is ordered. Thanks guys.