REVIEW: Gretchen Peters St George's Bristol by Keith Clark 9/10
AT the best of times, Gretchen Peters' songs tend towards the melancholy and even the downright miserable. So this was never going to be a gig for anyone wanting happy songs and jaunty melodies.
Even the songs of supporting artist Ben Glover were pretty sombre, with the exception of the almost poppy Whatever Happens Will but the Irishman had a great voice, his songs were very well crafted and he performed with a lot of assurance.
Gretchen Peters told us that it seems she only writes a happy song once every 10 years and after the uncharacteristically light and dreamy Sunday Morning she commented: "Well now we've got the happy song out of the way we can get down to business."
While her songs may be downbeat she writes so lyrically that at no point during her lengthy set did you feel weighed down by the situation of the characters in her literate and empathetically penned story lines.
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Accompanied by her husband Barry Walsh on piano, accordion and backing vocals and by Canadian multi-instrumentalist Christine Bougie on lap steel, guitar and percussion, she sang a lot of songs from her new album Hello Cruel World notably Saint Francis, Five Minutes and Dark Angel which she sang as a duet with Barry.
Of course, there were lots of old favourites, too, such as her brilliant Grammy-nominated song about an abused woman, Independence Day, to which she provided her own piano accompaniment, Circus Girl, the Tex-Mex styled Guadalupe co-written with Tom Russell and the beautiful On A Bus To St Cloud.
Barry Walsh got his moment in the spotlight with a very cinematic piano piece called Gretchen's Theme and Ben Glover came back on to duet with her on a fine version of Gram Parson's classic Grievous Angel.
They closed with an extended version of I'm Not ready To Say Goodbye. We weren't either and they had to return for two more songs ending with a version of The Rolling Stones' Wild Horses that had the whole audience singing along.
Gretchen Peters told us: "Bless you all for coming out, it's been a wonderful night." She wasn't wrong.