A live album to savour from one of the great singer-songwriters of her generation.
Gretchen Peters has always had a great affinity with UK audiences and 2022 marks 25 years since this outstanding singer-songwriter first stepped onto a stage this side of the pond. By way of a commemoration Peters set out in 2019 to record a live album in front of what she calls “the enthusiastic and supportive audiences in the UK.” So, to anyone out there who was present in Bristol, Bexhill-on-Sea or Bury St Edmunds in April 2019 – congratulations, you get to share a recording with one of the finest songwriters of her generation.
‘The Show’ is presented in two parts. Disc One sees Peters augmenting her band with the strings of The Southern Fried String Quartet. Ten tracks that span the full range of Peters musical career to date are presented here, from ‘The Secret of Life,’ and ‘When You Are Old’ that both date back to her 1996 debut through to ‘Blackbirds’, her 2015 album that garnered huge critical acclaim including International Album of The Year from the UK Americana Association.
Disc Two is entitled ‘The Band’ and has its feet planted more firmly in the more recent past and highlights the fact that here is an artist whose flame has not diminished one iota over the years. ‘When All You’ve Got Is a Hammer’ is a brilliant portrayal of a veteran dealing with the trauma of fitting back into civvy street “Well they show you how to shoot and they show you how to kill, But they don’t show you what to do with this hole that you can’t fill.” Peters cleverly links this with ‘Disappearing Act’ from her 2018 ‘Dancing With The Beast’ album “He did two tours of duty out in Iraq, He came home but he didn’t come back, and that’s somethin’ that I’ll never understand.”
Seonaid Aitken of the aforementioned string quartet brings a haunting beauty to ‘The Matador’ while the brilliant piano of husband Barry Walsh is a constant thread running through the heart of the album. Anyone fortunate enough to have seen Peter’s live will already be well aware that her vocals on stage are always pitch perfect and this album fully captures the artist at her emotive and captivating best.
Peters says that “Living through the last two years of this pandemic…..I became convinced that there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – that can replace the magic of several musicians and several hundred people in a darkened room having a moment together.”
Here, here to that Gretchen. Transferring that moment to a live album can be a much tougher act to perform, however. It is a task that Peters has, alongside the skills of Dom Monks who recorded and mixed the album, accomplished with ease. As with any live performance some of the songs have instrumental embellishments that set them apart from the original recordings, but they are never over-indulgent.
An album to be savoured and memories of gigs past rekindled by any Gretchen Peters devotees or a fantastic introduction to an immense talent for the uninitiated.