Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds – she gets better and better!!
My favorite Gretchen Peters’ song has always been “On a Bus to St Cloud” I’ve loved the song since the first time I heard Jimmy LaFave;s cover on his 2001 album TexOma. Notice I said “has always been”, the reason for that is that I do believe that there are several songs on Gretchen’s hauntingly beautiful new release Blackbirds that could soon take away that distinction. First, there’s the title track “Blackbirds” a murder mystery masterpiece and then “When All You Got is a Hammer” and “The House on Auburn Street”. Oh. I forgot “Jubilee” Hell it could be any one of the eleven tracks on the fantastic album! Will Kimbrough, who appears on the album, pretty much sums up what I feel about the album….
Listening to ‘Blackbirds’ now and blown away—the songs, as always, masterful—the singing and
playing are inspired—mix is great—mastering great. Honored to get to make such great records
with y’all. “The House On Auburn Street” Oh, would make Sandy Denny blush.(emphasis added)
I have alway felt that Gretchen has been an under appreciated singer-songwriter. She was finally Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame last year 2014. On this album she has taken a few risks. First tackling the topic of getting older. She was drawn to this topic, after attending four memorial services and one wedding ,in one week…..
“It dawned on me that this is the way it goes as you get older – the memorial services start coming with alarming frequency and the weddings are infrequent and thus somehow more moving. You understand the fragility of life, and the beauty of two people promising to weather it together.”
This realization led her to the exploration of music from artists who write songs about their own aging and mortality artist like Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Lowe. What Peters noticed was that almost all the material was coming from a male perspective. At her website she writes…..
As brave an artistic risk as it may be for a man, it’s much riskier for a woman to speak about it,” says Peters. “There’s a cultural expectation that women artists should either shut up about it or disappear entirely. Aging seems to be a taboo subject for female singer-songwriters, in part because our value has depended so much on our youth and sexuality. The depth and beauty and terror and richness of life in my fifties is obviously, to me, the deepest well of experience I can draw from as an artist. I want to write about that stuff because it’s real, it’s there, and so few women seem to be talking about it.”
The second thing that she did with this album was stepping out of her comfort zone and working with a co-writer. She wrote some of the songs with Ben Glover with whom she often tours. One of the tracks they co-wrote was the title track “Blackbirds”. Peters also got some help on the album from a variety of music’s top artists including :Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, Suzy Bogguss and others
Rarely does everything come together perfectly in life or on an album, but they do in Blackbirds, amazingly well-crafted songs that tug at your heart-strings, impeccable vocals and musical arrangements that just as Will Kimbrough says “blow you away”! and not to be left out is the album cover!!
Bottom line: Blackbirds is a FIVE Star album for me. Kudos to Gretchen Peters, Ben Glover and all the artists, and producers who worked on this fantastic album!
Links for Further Explorations of the Music of Gretchen Peters….