Sing Out!’s Best of 2015

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Gretchen Peters' Blackbirds

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

label: SCARLET

I‘ve reviewed a few hundred albums in my career and hands down, Blackbird is one of the best. Her songs are rich with vibrant images favoring heartbreak and longing; artists from Martina McBride to Etta James have sung her songs. She’s no slouch at interpretation herself, with an emotive voice and a top notch band including piano, guitar, drums and more; guests include Kim Richey, Jerry Douglas, and Jimmy LaFave. The title cut is a murder ballad that uses stark images to tell an absorbing narrative. “Black Ribbons,” written with Suzy Bogguss and Matraca Berg, tells the heartbreaking tale of a man in Louisiana who worked hard to support his family, only to be taken down by an oil spill. In “Jubilee,” the main character welcomes death. It features only her voice and an expressive piano in the beginning, then builds with a lovely cello and violins. “The House on Auburn Street” is another tragic tale, one that includes drug abuse. In contrast, “When You Coming Home” is lighter and moves along with a great groove that includes a banjo. “When All You Got is a Hammer” is about a veteran who can’t adjust to civilian life. Every songwriter should study her work. The rest of you can simply enjoy it. — JA

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