GRETCHEN PETERS – Dancing With The Beast (Scarlet Letter/Proper PRPCD148P)

Dancing With The BeastHaving enjoyed her biggest success to date with the Ben Glover co-penned southern gothic ‘Blackbirds’, it is, perhaps, not too surprising to find echoes in Dancing With The Beast. In terms of narrative, the slightly swampy ‘Wichita’, which Glover also co-wrote and which features Jerry Douglas on Dobro, is another murder ballad, this time round a mentally handicapped 12-year-old girl taking a gun to protect herself, her dysfunctional divorced mother and little sister from an abusive man as she sings “I hope I was the last thing that you saw that night in Wichita”.

More specifically, the politically pointed ‘Lowlands’ traces a similar melody to the Grammy winner’s refrain on a song written in response to the 2016 election with lyrics reflecting the sense of disquiet about a man who “lies just for the sake of lying.. sell you kerosene and call it hope.” This one’s not written with Ben Glover, but he does have three co-write credits, the first up being the album’s opening number, a three-way split with Matraca Berg, a melancholically, world weary reflective song about growing old and times changing as she sings “I get lost in my hometown, since they tore the Drive-In down”, perhaps carrying with it hints of incipient Alzheimer’s.

Throughout the album, she’s backed by Doug Lancio on guitar and synths, guitarist Will Kimbrough, keyboard player Barry Walsh, bassist and John Gardner on drums, the songs populated with a variety of female characters and driven by a feminist perspective. The moods vary. On the dreamy, piano-backed ‘The Boy From Rye’, steeped in the insecurities of female adolescence, it’s one of wistful reflection on a summer romance with a boy from out of town who, “His smile knowing and ironic” divided friendships as “One by one he broke our virgin hearts/And set us one against the other”. In contrast, the more musically muscular but equally poignant ‘Life Is A Disappearing Act’ turns its gaze on a middle-aged woman who, widowed after fifty years of marriage, having lost two babies at birth and a son to the Iraq war, mentally and emotionally rather than physically, now finds herself alone, lonely and isolated, trapped in a “dark cocoon” and “crying at the kitchen sink” , “if Jesus is comin’ soon And if he is, he better make it quick”.

She turns the mirror on herself, and any touring musician, for the whisperingly sung ‘The Show’, which, accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar and piano, reflects on life on the road, “somewhere between Bend and Birmingham”, drinking hotel coffee that “tastes like kerosene”, saving up the energy for “Nineteen songs and one more night to go”.

Clearly, it can take its toll (“I clutch this guitar to my chest and wonder just what I’ll have left/When all of this hard traveling’s finally done”), especially on sustaining a relationship, and she reprises the theme on ‘Lay Low’, where, “a good three hours to Aberdeen”, she sings how “Tonight I’ll call to say hello, but your phone’s just gonna ring I know” and of the need to take some time out to recharge.

The other two Glover co-writes play back to back. Like ‘Blackbirds’, they’ve both recorded their own versions, the title track here to be found on his current Shorebound album, both swelling towards the end and featuring a nervy acoustic guitar line, but her’s without the prominent strings and the drums held back until towards the end and Kim Richey on background vocals. A song about that voice that whispers in your ear that you’re no good or you can’t do it, be it depression, a sense of insecurity or whatever, and how the best way to deal with it is to “circle round the room together /Seal this devil’s bargain with a kiss.” However, lyrics like “It isn’t that he doesn’t care about me/If anything it’s that he cares too much /It’s only that he wants the best for me /It’s only that I don’t try hard enough” also lend themselves to an interpretation of an abusive relationship that chimes with the #MeToo movement, especially given the confessional and emotionally bruised way Peters’ delivers the lines.

The second, underpinned by Walsh’s piano and again echoing Blackbirds’ melody line, is ‘Truckstop Angel’, a variation on ‘Honky Tonk Angels’ that addresses prostitution and self-respect as the character sings of being unsure if she’s predator or prey, but that “One day I’m gonna leave here /Gonna hit my lucky streak, Gonna spread my gorgeous wings and fly/Above all this concrete”.

At the end of the day, this is an album about rising above the weight and the burdens, imposed by both others and yourself, a simple humanity and moving epiphany found in the gorgeous ‘Say Grace’, Douglas on dobro and Richey on backing, taking refuge in faith or friends as the lost, the despairing, the bruised and the broken are welcomed to share in prayer at shelter by the bus station depot, the lesson of the day being “Forgive yourself for all of your mistakes You can start all over if that’s what it takes… You are not a loser, you are not a hopeless case” .

It ends with just her and a fingerpicked acoustic guitar for ‘Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea’, a song that, born of a dream about her late mother in which “she held my hand and she said, ‘You know, honey, there is love that makes a cup of tea’.” In many ways an echo of the blessing in ‘Kindness’ on Glover’s album, it’s a celebration of how, for all the big dramatic moments, of “love that moves a mountain” or “love that fights for justice knowing justice won’t be done”, sometimes the smallest, simplest human moment can be the most profound. There is sadness, there is weariness, there is trepidation, but, as the conclusion to Lowlands notes, at the end of the day there is also hope, because “We get a lot of clouds here in the lowlands /But now and then a little light gets through.” This is a beacon.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s: website: www.gretchenpeters.com

‘Disappearing Act’ – official video:

Gretchen Peters announces new album

Gretchen Peters
Photograph courtesy of BBC

Described by Uncut magazine as “One of Nashville’s greatest talents”, Gretchen Peters is releasing new album Dancing With The Beast next month. It’s the follow-up to 2016’s acclaimed record Blackbirds, which was named Album of The Year by the Americana Music Association.

It’s with some anticipation that the record is being released, and she has put together an especially timely record, with the contributions of Matraca Berg and Ben Glover amongst others. Dancing With The Beast puts female characters at the fore, from teenage girls to old women. And intentionally so. With the 2017 Women’s March and #MeToo Movement as bookends to her writing time, Peters knew that a feminist perspective would be the critical core of the record. “Those two events just put everything — as so many things in 2017 — in really stark relief,” she admits. “You can trace the feminist DNA in my songwriting back to ‘Independence Day’ and probably before. The thing that 2017 did is just put it front and centre. It was very easy to kind of go to sleep for a while and just not think about that stuff because we were lulled into complacency for eight years.”

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.gretchenpeters.com/

‘Disappearing Act’ – official video:

The Folking Winners – Public Vote 2016

First of all, a big thank you to the thousands who voted in our inaugural Folkies awards. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the runners-up, although all our nominees are winners to the team who enjoyed their music, either live or on record, over the last year and placed them on the short list. Here are the folking public vote winners and now, may I have the first envelope please…

Soloist Of The Year – Steve Knightley

The Folking Winners - Steve Knightley

http://folking.com/steve-knightley-bio/


Best Duo – Show Of Hands

The Folking Winners - Show Of Hands
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

http://folking.com/show-of-hands-bio/


Best Band – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

Best Live Act – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

The Folking Winners - Blackbeard's Tea Party

http://folking.com/blackbeards-tea-party-bio/


Best Album – Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

The Folking Winners - Disco At The Tavern

http://folking.com/disco-at-the-tavern-review/


Best Musician – Peter Knight

The Folking Winners - Peter Knight

http://folking.com/peter-knight-bio


Rising Star – Will Varley

The Folking Winners - Will Varley

http://folking.com/will-varley-bio


Best International Artist – Gretchen Peters

The Folking Winners - Gretchen Peters
Photograph by Gina Binkley

http://folking.com/gretchen-peters-bio



If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Clype

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarrr
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarr
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/


If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us

The Essential Gretchen Peters

The Essential Gretchen PetersTwenty years on from Gretchen Peters’ debut solo album, The Secret Of Life, comes a career retrospective double CD set – half greatest hits, half demos and rarities. Gretchen is almost as well known as writer of songs for other singers and a collaborator as for her solo work so her guests on these tracks include some major names: Tom Russell, Bryan Adams, Ben Glover, Matraca Berg and Suzy Boggus.

The set opens with the crunching guitar of ‘Blackbirds’ from her most recent solo album but with her wide-ranging experience there isn’t a single Gretchen Peters sound. Most of her songs are built on her acoustic guitar, of course, but the wistfulness of ‘The Aviator’s Song’ and ‘On A Bus To St. Cloud’ are in complete contrast to the anger of ‘When All You Got Is A Hammer’. I think I prefer her angry.

There are musical touches that don’t let your attention wander. ‘The Matador’, a song reminiscent of both Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega, features accordion and percussion that sounds like distant fireworks and ‘Sunday Morning (Up And Down My Street)’ has organ and bells – not “churchy”; the organ is electric and the bells are a glockenspiel, I think, but the feeling of Sunday morning in suburbia is perfectly captured.

The second disc includes a radio edit of ‘Pretty Things’, a live ‘Woman On The Wheel’, a piano-based interpretation of the traditional ‘The Cruel Mother’ and several demos and work tapes. Notably among the latter is ‘Five Minutes’, which appears in full on the hits disc. And don’t forget the cover of ‘Wild Horses’ with Berg and Boggus.

There is a huge variety of styles and moods here and, moreover, some superb songs. If you don’t know Gretchen’s music this is the perfect way to get acquainted

Dai Jeffries

The Essential Gretchen Peters (Proper PRPCD134)

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.gretchenpeters.com/

‘Five Minutes’ – live in the studio:

Gretchen Peters New Album

Gretchen Peters New Album

On The Essential Gretchen Peters, this very special Nashville-based singer-songwriter  combines career-defining tracks with rare outtakes, demos, and B-sides to provide a two-disc snapshot of her remarkable journey as a singularly fearless and creative talent.  The album is released to coincide with her latest UK tour.

“I remember going on my first radio tour for my debut album and the guys at the radio stations would say, ‘So you’re a songwriter, and now you want to be an artist?'” remembers Gretchen Peters.

In hindsight, it’s a laughable distinction. Over the last three decades, Peters has proven to posses one of the most indelible voices in country and roots music in addition to wielding one the genres’ most enduring pens. But in 1996, as she crossed the invisible Music City barrier between writer and performer, few could have predicted what lay ahead.

Peters first arrived in Nashville in 1987 and quickly established herself as a songwriting force to be reckoned with and tracks recorded by some of the biggest names in country music. She landed her first number 1 with George Strait’s rendition of her ‘Chill Of An Early Fall’, garnered her first GRAMMY Nomination and CMA Song of the Year win with Martina McBride’s recording of ‘Independence Day’, and penned hits for Patty Loveless, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Trisha Yearwood, Jimmy LaFave, and Etta James among others. “If Peters never delivers another tune as achingly beautiful as ‘On A Bus To St. Cloud,'” People Magazine wrote, “she has already earned herself a spot among country’s upper echelon of contemporary composers.”

All the while, though, she had bigger plans for herself.

“Performing my own material was always in my sights from the time I moved to Nashville,” Peters explains. “I didn’t separate the writing from the performing from the recording in my mind. I always saw myself as a singer-songwriter, and that was all part of the job.”

Riding the momentum from her remarkable success, Peters signed her first recording contract in 1996 with an independent label and released her debut album, The Secret Of Life. While it fared well critically, Peters fell between the cracks of an industry hungry for easy-to-categorize products to feed the machine. Marketing a nuanced, mature storyteller—one who penned songs like the album’s bittersweet title track and the stirring ‘When You Are Old’ (both of which appear on ‘The Essential’ Disc 1)—to mainstream country radio proved to be fruitless, and when the label later folded, Peters bought back the master recordings and vowed to maintain control for the rest of her days in the business, becoming an early adopter of the now-common process of self-releasing albums through licensing and distribution partnerships.

Despite the early commercial stumble in the US, though, Peters found a different appreciation for her songs in the UK, where she earned the admiration of early champions in radio and press, like the legendary BBC host Bob Harris.

“The first time I went over, I played four little gigs with no more than 40 or 50 people at any of them, maybe less”, she remembers. “But I immediately felt completely comfortable in my skin. I felt like those audiences didn’t expect or want me to be anything other than who I was. Everything that wasn’t working here in the States was working really well over there. It was like stepping through the looking glass.”

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.gretchenpeters.com

‘On A Bus To St. Cloud’: