Album Review: Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

GretchenPetersalbumartwork.201032The cover to Gretchen Peters latest album ‘ Blackbirds’ depicts her dressed in black arms flapping in a bleak atmospheric landscape which complements the music on offer here beautifully. Backed by some of Nashville’s top musicians this latest release is sure to establish Gretchen Peters as the natural successor to Lucinda Williams.

The raunchy guitar riff to the opening title track sets the tone perfectly as Gretchen Peters soulful country vocals tug gently at your heart with a moody Hammond organ backing. The following track ‘Pretty Things’ has a gentler feel with a melodic chorus and a beautiful piano solo that starts the build up to a raucous crescendo.

‘ When All You Got Is A Hammer’ starts off with guitar feedback and the atmospheric line of “ there is a Bible on the table and a Bible on the shelf’ and tells a story of life in the Wild West which could have been set 100 years ago but equally relevant today. The beautiful piano returns to ‘ Everything Falls Away’ which sets up this deeply melancholic song backed by fiddle and powerful electric guitar and for the first time on this album we hear the full range of Gretchen Peters stunning vocals.

‘The House on Auburn Street’ is a moving song which seems to tell the story of losing a loved one. ‘When you comin’ home’ is a more traditional country tune that features a duet with Jimmy La Fave whose vocals complement each other perfectly. ‘Jubilee’ has a ‘Desperado’ by the Eagles feel about it and features vocals, piano and violin but manages to hold onto its own identity.

’ Black Ribbons’ tells the story of a fisherman who lay’s his wife to rest after losing everything in the BP oil spill. On ‘Nashville’ Gretchen Peters tells us of her feelings of her adopted home in what is almost a lullaby as this song wraps around you like a soft, well used blanket. The final track on this album is ‘The Cure for the Pain’ which tells the story of almost giving up on life and which instructs us that the ‘cure for the pain is the pain’.

Overall this is an excellent, honest album of songs that does not indulge us in words of hope and fantasy but is focused on the gritty reality of life and there is something very refreshing about this. Its style and feel reminds me of Leonard Cohen in his heyday – highly recommended.

The album is out on 9th February on Proper Records.

‘Blackbirds’ Tracklisting:

1. Blackbirds
2. Pretty Things
3. When All You Got Is A Hammer
4. Everything Falls Away
5. The House on Auburn Street
6. When You Comin’ Home
7. Jubilee
8. Black Ribbons
9. Nashville
10. The Cure For The Pain
11. Blackbirds (reprise)

Review by Graham Steel