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Gretchen Peters Spins Tumultuous Year Into Musical Gold on ‘Hello Cruel World’ (1/31, Scarlet Letter Records)

Rodney Crowell Duets with Grammy Nominee on “Dark Angel,” Premiering on Beliefnet:

When Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters sings, “life is still a beautiful disaster” on “Dark Angel,” her duet with Rodney Crowell, the accent rests on “beautiful,” a perfect encapsulation of her new album, ‘Hello Cruel World’ (1/31, Scarlet Letter Records). The record was born out of a rollercoaster year for Peters: she watched the Gulf oil spill wash up on the doorstep of her Florida cottage, lost a close friend to suicide, experienced the worst flooding in the history of her adopted hometown of Nashville, married her longtime piano accompanist and partner Barry Walsh, and learned that her child is transgendered. “I see his transition as beautiful and triumphant,” Peters says. “

My son’s bravery and honesty inspires me every day. But it’s profoundly disorienting to reorder your thoughts about your own child’s gender. Ultimately, it reorders your thoughts about everything.”

Wistful yet optimistic, ‘Hello Cruel World’ was recorded at the East Nashville studio of Patty Griffin with producer Doug Lancio and guests including Crowell, Kim Richey, Will Kimbrough, and the rhythm section of Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy. The album’s eleven tracks showcase Peters’ warm voice, full-bodied with a delicate quaver that calls to mind Emmylou Harris.

Peters describes the album as her “most close-to-the-bone work, written at a time when I felt absolutely fearless about telling the truth.” It documents the sheer triumph of survival, of finding strength, joy, and growth in everyday life. The compassion in her voice softens the edge of desperation in songs like character study “Camille,” and the earthy maturity of her phrasing on “The Matador” injects empathy – a quality that allows Peters’ songs to ring true – into a tale about the dark underbelly of love. Her characters, like the broken-hearted narrator of “Natural Disaster” and the human target of “Woman On the Wheel,” don’t just search for fulfillment, they take risks to find it.

Peters first rose to national prominence when Martina McBride recorded her song “Independence Day.” The gritty story of an abused woman’s revenge, “Independence Day” received a “Best Country Song” Grammy nomination and won the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year.” Since then, Peters’ songs have been recorded by Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, Neil Diamond, George Strait, Etta James, and others.



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