NASHVILLE based and New York born singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters has a special affection for her British fans, and with her latest album Blackbirds, they have taken her to their hearts as never before.
The CD, whose song subjects range from a Southern murder and incest ballad through a heartfelt story of death on a cancer ward, via stories of post-traumatic stress for desert war veterans and childhood memories, has whizzed up the UK charts.
Now the singer, on her first proper UK tour since 2012, is delighting both her new and established fans.
She came to the Tivoli in Wimborne on Monday 16th March with her excellent band – pianist, accordionist, arranger and husband Barry Walsh, percussionist, lap-steel and guitar player Christine Bougie from Toronto and newcomer, bassist Conor McCreanor from Ireland.
The brilliant set started, of course, with Blackbirds, the song written with Northern Irish singer Ben Glover, and continued with the big British hit, When All You’ve Got Is A Hammer, the first half ending with the new song that brings tears of recognition to so many eyes, The Cure for the Pain is the Pain, and Everything Falls Away, both from the new album.
Gretchen began the second half solo, accompanying herself at the piano to play Jubilee from Blackbirds, and the song that she says was responsible for her induction into the Nashville songwriters hall of fame, Independence Day.
Then came perhaps her most cinematic song, The Matador, all about women knowingly hurling themselves into unbalanced and hopeless relationships, here powerfully embellished by Barry Walsh’s atmospheric accordion accompaniment.
The second half also included Five Minutes, the song Gretchen was persuaded to include on the wonderful Hello Cruel World album by her British fans – another poignant lament for what might have been.
One great musical game to play is to open a Rand McNally on random pages, and see how many songs you can sing with the town names in them … you don’t have to be American! It sometimes seems as though Gretchen Peters has done the same thing. Idlewild, the old name for Kennedy Airport in New York, recollects her childhood. And Bus to St Cloud is her most requested number, charting hopeful glimpses of lost love in unlikely places.
The memorable gig ended on an upbeat note as she joined Barry for In Spite of Ourselves.
Judging by the audience reaction at Wimborne, there were scores of new devoted fans added to the list, as the tour continues across the UK until 5th April. Several dates are sold out.
If you missed Wimborne, catch her if you can, a singer and songwriter at the very top of her game.