With what could just be the best album of her long running career so far, Nashville based, Gretchen Peters releases ‘Dancing with the Beast’ via Proper Records on 18th May, 2018.
Confidence brimming, this is the album that should pitch Gretchen into the everyday, radio world mainstream of country. It no doubt won’t and Gretchen with remain the hard working musician playing the smaller venues to an already large fan base across the world (good news for us) but, it would be nice if just a few more people latch on to this wonderful, singer/songwriter on the back of this fine record.
'Dancing with the Beast' puts female characters to the fore, from teenage girls to old women and intentionally so. With the 2017 Women's March and #MeToo Movement as bookends to her writing time, Gretchen knew that a feminist perspective would be at the core of the record. “Those two events just put everything -- as so many things in 2017 -- in really stark relief,” she admits. “You can trace the feminist DNA in my songwriting back to 'Independence Day' and probably before. The thing that 2017 did is just put it front and center. It was very easy to kind of go to sleep for a while and just not think about that stuff because we were lulled into complacency for eight years.”
The landscape also plays a big part on the album, the gritty ‘Wichita’ with it’s great pedal steel and the fragile and delicate, ‘Truckstop Angel’, both sketches of women doing whatever they have to do to stand up in a world built to hold them down.
Once Gretchen knew where the songs were set, she and co-contributors, Matraca Berg and Ben Glover set to work. “'Wichita' was a lot like 'Blackbirds,' with me and Ben playing detective, like, 'What do you think happened here?'” Grecthen says. “I think I had the line, ’I hope I was the last thing that you saw that night in Wichita.' And the next questions were, ‘what happened to this girl? How did we get there?'”
“Truckstop Angel” was an idea originally sparked 20-something years ago by a New Yorker article she had read about people that lived in the wide-open western landscapes. “They just kind of went out there to get away from the world,” she explains. “I read this article and I was fascinated, and one of the things in the article was these truckstop prostitutes. And I just never got that out of my mind.” Peters wrote around the idea a lot in those two decades, but never got to the heart of the story until she encountered such a character at a truckstop in Alabama. “This woman -- a girl, really, as I don't think she was more than 17 -- at 1:30 in the afternoon, walks through the lot in five-inch platform shoes and short shorts. And I just thought, 'Oh my God, that's the woman. That's her.'”
All the songs on this album are deep and dreamy, intense Americana tunes from the road or, just plain beautiful. ‘The Boy from Rhye’ and ‘The Show’ are songs that just melt you with their gentle and heartrending deliveries.
The final female voice on the album comes from Peters' mother, who passed away in late 2016. 'Love That Makes a Cup of Tea' came out of a dream Peters had of her. “I can't remember what the rest of the dream was, but she, in a reassuring way, held my hand and she said, 'You know, honey, there is love that makes a cup of tea,'” Grecthen recounts. “She was the kind of person who would show you her love by baking you a pie or knitting you a sweater. She just said that in the dream, and I woke up and I thought, 'Okay, there it is. I'm going to write that.'
‘Compelling’ may be a good word to sum up this record. If say for example a more mainstream artist had made a record of this quality, a lot of people would sit up, so fingers crossed that they do just that this time round for Gretchen!
This record could not have actually been any better, it’s perfection.