Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkyson and Gretchen Peters, whose combined acronymic name came as a shock when they realised it, but has now been “owned’ by the trio, are playing to packed and very varied houses in California this week.
They started at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, Mary arrived from a dash back to her Nashville home caught in the grip of snow and ice, Gretchen from New York and a short London promotional visit and Eliza basking in the Californian heat and a successful outing with Nina Gerber.
Gretchen Peters is currently top of the English country charts with her new release Blackbirds – featured prominently in the Three Women set.
Eliza’s latest, The Nocturne Diaries, was nominated for a Grammy.
Mary has just made her second appearance at the Grand Ol Opry, after a successful UK tour last autumn.
These are women at the top of their game, singing songs of pain and love, tackling universal and timeless issues.
At Berkeley, and at Don Quixote’s in Felton, up in the hills north of Santa Cruz, the hippie spirit is alive and thriving. Tie dye, tour teeshirts and a trio doing yoga in the bar in the interval all added to the alternative vibe, and while we sang “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” I wanted to warble “We are stardust, we are golden….”
What’s noticeable is that songwriters are still singing songs about the political and environmental issues as they were all those years ago, and we are still empathising, and nothing changes.
Mary Gauthier is heavily involved in the Songwriting with Soldiers project, hoping to record the songs she has created with traumatised vets. As she sang about a soldier watching a parade and imagining angels looking down through the bullet holes in the sky, we sat next to a man whose “therapy dog” was a calming presence on his knee throughout the performance.
Gretchen Peters, who tours the UK in March, has a song about how a soldier left only with a hammer sees only nails. It’s getting lots of airplay now.
Eliza, seen as the “happy” one of the trio, sings about loss of faculties, sleepless nights, political threats and death.
But, as one of Mary Gauthier’s website correspondents wrote, it was all surprisingly funny,
Well, this is about truth, and if we don’t find the way we live comical at times, we really are in trouble.
All three women have deeply felt, wry and individual voices. They sing from the heart, thundering good songs in which we can all find aspects of our own lives.
It’s fun, it’s thought-provoking and it underlines that old adage that a really good song has the capacity to touch each and every hearer.
If you are lucky enough to be in California you can catch them at the Lobero in Santa Barbara on Friday, or at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica on Saturday night.(or hear Gretchen in the UK in March)