It has taken me quite a while to fully explore Gretchen Peters’ February 2015 release Blackbirds (Scarlet Letter Records). But patience is a virtue they say, as this album has been well worth the wait.
The artistry is impeccable. The songwriting draws you in as there is so much emotion and well-articulated insights in these stories.
There are eleven tracks on Blackbirds and there is plenty of references to ageing and death, following Peters’ own experiences of needing to attend more and more memorial services. Co-produced with Doug Lancio and Barry Walsh and recorded in Nashville, the album features some supporting heavy-hitters – Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, and Suzy Bogguss.
The title song talks of a crime in Southern Louisiana, “The House On Auburn Street” reflects on the darker side of a suburb in which she lived. A fisherman buries his wife as a result of the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in “Black Ribbons”, while “When All You Got Is A Hammer” recounts the troubles for a veteran adjusting to life after active service.
It all sounds rather gloomy, but it is not.
There is a delicacy and an empathy here, with a multitude of sharp observations. Peters was inducted into the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 and on Blackbirds the reasons for that accolade are abundantly clear. A towering collection.