Album Review of Gretchen Peters: The Essential Gretchen Peters (Scarlet Letter Records)
Gretchen Peters has been on the national music scene since 1996. She is a singer-songwriter who has plied her trade recording nearly a dozen albums and has written hits for Martina McBride, Etta James, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Anne Murray, Shania Twain, and Neil Diamond and has co-written with Bryan Adams. So, this album – a collection of demos, live tracks, alternate takes and album cuts – has been a long time coming.
When you’ve got such a prolific composer and performer as Peters, there is a wealth of material to draw from. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from experiencing Peters’ music is that there is a timeless quality to it. A classic song has staying power and can really speak to the heart and soul of the listener. That’s the kind of gift Peters has. You can hear it in the barroom banter of friends trying to define their purpose in “The Meaning of Life” or dealing with life’s futile struggles in “When All You Got is a Hammer.” There are also beautiful love songs that span the human condition from the longing of “On a Bus to St. Cloud” to her duet with Bryan Adams, “When You Love Someone.”
What’s really remarkable is that many of the songs on this two-disc package have been major and minor hits for many other people. But it’s nothing like hearing a master storyteller like Peters deliver them with her own inimitable candor and poise. She knows how to wrap an emotion around a lyric and make it come alive. She has a sincerity in her voice that’s not unlike Dolly Parton or Bonnie Raitt, sweet but with a knowing world-weariness to it. And it is that very sincerity that informs the self-reflective “Five Minutes” and the personally empowered “Woman on the Wheel,” with just the right amount of gusto and grit to get the message across.
To paraphrase a video interview seen a few years ago, she could be sitting at home writing songs and collecting hefty royalty checks for them. But thankfully she has always stayed true to her muse to be a performer as well as a writer. Hence, she writes from a place of experience and is compelled to complete the circle by going out there and playing those songs for people. With The Essential you have the Gretchen Peters story… so far. Here’s to her continuing that musical journey for many years to come.