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Gretchen Peters – Hello Cruel World (Review)

Gretchen Peters, Hello Cruel World

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

WITH a name like Hello Cruel World you’d be foolish to expect anything other than a downbeat collection of songs from Gretchen Peters’ ninth studio album.

As such, it’s an acquired taste and one that’s likely to leave you feeling more than a little sombre. An appreciation for country is also required, as there’s a distinct genre leaning in most of this Nashville resident’s song-writing, not to mention her choice of musicians (from Rodney Crowell to Will Kimbrough).

But even so, there are still plenty of moments to admire among the thought-provoking observations on life and love that Peters’ delivers throughout.

Album opener and title track Hello Cruel World sets the tone with strings and guitars providing a backdrop for the singer to combine personal reflections on her own bad luck with many of the misfortunes of the 21st Century. She may lament the fact she’s a girl without a safety net and a cause for some concern but she also notes that she’s ‘a lucky girl’ and ‘a stubborn’ one too.

The ‘woo hoo’ harmonising that leads into each chorus also lends the song a breezier disposition than you might expect, while the lazy backing values lend it a laidback bluesy vibe that’s nice.

It’s evidence of Peters at her best and less serious… and the album comes alive and offers wider appeal during similar such ones.

Hence, if the likes of Saint Francis feel a little self-serious by contrast, and perhaps too religious, The Matador offers a compelling, dusky tale of a tempestuous relationship that’s rife with the imagery that Peters invests in almost every song.

Woman On The Wheel, meanwhile, reflects on the burdens of being an artist complete with acoustic country strumming that somehow manages to avoid sounding too self-pitying. It’s a song that the likes of Dolly Parton would be proud of.

Idlewild, meanwhile, is as stark and sombre as the album gets… yet utterly riveting lyrically as Peters lays her heart on the line and sings of another troubled relationship (possibly her parents’) and sings: “We are a family, we are a shipwreck, and we’re picking up my grandma who is getting very old…. they think she’s dying, but I think she’s laughing.”

It’s a heartbreaking song in so many ways, and one that feels fiercely personal. And it’s another firm favourite despite leaving you emotionally strung out.

Admittedly, there’s a little too much of this across the album as a whole and some songs fail to linger as long as Peters’ best. But while certainly needing its listeners to be in the right mood to go the distance with it, Peters’ latest collection is never less than intriguing and sometimes quite haunting.

Download picks: Hello Cruel World, Woman On The Wheel, The Matador, Idlewild

Track listing:

  1. Hello Cruel World
  2. Saint Francis
  3. The Matador
  4. Dark Angel feat. Rodney Crowell
  5. Paradise Found
  6. Woman On The Wheel
  7. Five Minutes
  8. Camille
  9. Natural Disaster
  10. Idlewild
  11. Little World