American songstress cuts right to the heartstrings

Grammy-nominated songstress Gretchen Peters delivered a tear-jerking, spine-shivering setlist at Mareel on Tuesday evening.

Accompanied by partner and polished pianist Barry Walsh the pair interwove tales of love, last-gasp cigarettes and heartbreak in a profound and moving collection of songs.

At times Peters left her soul bare under the cosy stage lights, with such searing honesty it left a lump in the throat.

Quipping about her most recent LP Blackbirds, she said the secret to chart success was being in your 50s and writing about death.

Admittedly the cheery numbers were few and far between, but Peters was all the while engaging – switching from heartfelt accounts of her own experiences to a downtrodden waitress and a brave Matador.

The latter with its accordion interjections and flowing lead lines showed the real strength of Peters’ songwriting.

Hanging on every word her thoughtful and clever turn of phrase overlaid simple guitar picking: “His rage is made of many things, faithless women, wedding rings.”

Thumping guitar and menacing melodies unfolded in the title track of the album, co-written with Irish songwriter Ben Glover.

Peters had joked that the near-capacity crowd may get a bit of Willie Nelson thrown into the bargain as she was nursing a throat infection.

A re-jig of the song list was the outcome, keeping Walsh on his toes, although her vocals were still packing warmth and beauty in equal measure.

Five Minutes and If Heaven were luscious ballads delivered in a comforting American burr.
Walsh chipped in with his own musical brilliance too, including a stellar self-penned piano instrumental called Belgian Afternoon.

Local singer/songwriter Sheila Duncan opened up the night, joined by friends Jenny Keldie, Freda Leask and Ivor “Fred” Polson.

The trio of female vocalists belted out mighty three-part harmonies, anchored by the Duncan’s guitar chords and Polson’s sturdy acoustic bass.

Duncan’s Don’t Forget About Me saw Keldie take to the fiddle to adding fine flourishes to the memorable melody.

It was a delight to hear such strong singers in their own right join together on stage.

And their final number of Tom Waits’ Come On up To the House saw them swap verses and bring their talents to the fore.

It was a superb night of no-nonsense music; intimate and entertaining and hitting the heartstrings.


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