• gretchen peters Hello Cruel World (180g vinyl LP, £19.95)

    label: Diverse Records

    The title of Gretchen Peters’ new Hello Cruel World is a pun on the famed exit line — a joke that, like the lovely melodies and deliciously textured arrangements framing these 11 songs — sweetens this captivating music spun from a year of turmoil. The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter from Nashville calls Hello Cruel World her “most close-to-the-bone work, written at a time when I felt absolutely fearless about telling the truth.” Peters and her guest Rodney Crowell sing, “life is still a beautiful disaster,” on “Dark Angel.” But Peters keeps the accent on the “beautiful” throughout her ninth disc, with both her poetic language and the spare, evocative sounds she created in the studio to support her organic story-telling. Ultimately Hello Cruel World details the sheer triumph of survival and of finding strength, joy and growth in everyday life despite the challenges of our increasingly complex times. Her characters, like the broken-hearted narrator of “Natural Disaster” and the human target of “Woman On the Wheel,” don’t just search for fulfilment. They take risks to find it. And none, as the album’s title implies, are ready to either surrender or, to quote the poet Dylan Thomas, “go gentle into that good night.” Peters’ warm-honey voice softens the edge of desperation in numbers like the character study “Camille,” where a gently blown muted trumpet offers shadings of cool jazz, and in “ The Matador” the earthy maturity of her phrasing injects empathy — a quality that makes all of Peters’ songs ring consistently true — into a tale about the dark underbelly of love. Explaining Hello Cruel World’s genesis, Peters says, “In 2010 the universe threw its best and its worst at me. Some of it was personal, some global. All of it seemed to demand that I redefine my ideas of permanence and reevaluate what I believe in, to literally rethink what is real.” First the Gulf of Mexico oil spill put an eco-disaster at the doorsteps of the cottage in the Florida panhandle where Peters writes much of her music. Then a friend of 30 years committed suicide in his Colorado home, followed quickly by the worst flood in the history of her adopted hometown of Nashville. Add to that a ray of light in Peters’ marriage to her longtime piano accompanist and partner Barry Walsh, which affirmed their musical and personal commitment of more than 20 years. 1. Hello Cruel World 2. Saint Francis 3. The Matador 4. Dark Angel (with Rodney Crowell) 5. Paradise Found 6. Woman On The Wheel 7. Five Minutes 8. Camille 9. Natural Disaster 10. Idlewild 11. Little World


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