Gretchen Peters made a return to the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight with songs from her new album “Dancing With The Beast”, and support from Kim Richey. For anyone with the slightest interest in gifted songwriters, this was a rare “two for the price of one” show.
Gretchen Peters was last at The Queen’s Hall in February 2016 when “The Essential Gretchen Peters” album had just been released, and that was my first introduction to her music. Since then, I have been finding a lot more Gretchen Peters songs to listen to.
The new album “Dancing With The Beast”, was released at the end of March this year and is the follow up to the award winning 2015 album “Blackbirds”, and the 11 tracks on this new album (you can listen to them on Gretchen’s official website at http://www.gretchenpeters.com/) clearly, I think, show that another award winning album is here.
Gretchen Peters is a very special songwriter; one with the ability to create real people in her songs and weave around them almost self-contained little “bubble worlds” that last the duration of the song. There is an economy of words to Gretchen’s work, we are never given more than we need, but somehow, just the right amount to fully create this world of "someone elses life" for us to enter into. Like many of the great writers of the past, Gretchen Peters obviously finds the darker side of people’s lives and emotions a rich source of material, and this is one songwriter who can say like the T-Shirt “Black is my Happy Colour”.
With a new album just out, a lot of the material in this set came from it, and there are explorations here into hauntingly beautiful melodies like “The Boy From Rye” alongside explorations into the darker realms of the psychological control of someone and the sense of self blame, worthlessness, and insecurity that the skilful abuser can inflict on their victim in the album’s title track “Dancing With the Beast”. This album simply is full of so many skilfully crafted songs and “Arguing With Ghosts” and “Truckstop Angel” are a few more from this set that clearly show Gretchen Peters to be one of the great story tellers writing at the moment anywhere.
This was not an all new album set and some great earlier songs were on the set list – the wonderful “Blackbirds” and the sharp focused look at what being in a combat zone can do to a returning veteran in “When All You Got Is A Hammer” getting rightly due applause from the audience here tonight. Probably the biggest applause of all though was for “A Bus to St Cloud”, not only for the fact that this is an amazing song, but also because here, Gretchen was dedicating this to her much missed friend Jimmy LaFave who sadly passed away in May 2017. Taking Gretchen’s advice, I sought his version of this song out, and Gretchen, you are right, it is very special. For anyone who has not yet heard it, here is a you tube link
Still my favourite song from this set and overall for the moment from Gretchen Peters is one that highlights just how a seriously gifted songwriter can capture the dynamics and people in someone’s life in the short time frame of a song, the amazing “Five Minutes”.
On stage with Gretchen Peters tonight were Barry Walsh (keyboards), Conor McCreanor (bass) and Colm McLean (pedal steel & electric guitar).
For any aspiring songwriters out there (or just simply writers) who want to see just how the job is done, simply come along to any Gretchen Peters performance, or if you are unable to manage that, track down the current album and some earlier work. Watch out though as beneath the explorations into the darker side of human emotions, there are also some razor sharp commentaries on many subjects that other writers would shy away from.
For more information on the tour, and the new album visit
Supporting Gretchen Peters on this show (and on stage for some songs on her set), the impressive songwriting talents of Kim Richey. Kim also has a new album out “Edgeland”, and a few songs from this album -“Chase Wild Horses” and “Your Dear John” - clearly show a songwriter also with the ability to draw upon the darker side of life for inspiration, perhaps not quite as dark a black as Gretchen Peters though. As Kim jokingly told us all, between the two of them they have three happy songs, and maybe we heard two of them tonight.
Kim Richey has written more than enough of her own quality songs over the years to easily be headlining her own show at The Queen’s Hall (or anywhere else for that matter), so as I said at the beginning it was nice to get this opportunity to see and hear these two very good songwriters at the one show.
Check out http://kimrichey.com/ for further information on the new album release.
Review by Tom King