Album Review: Hello Cruel World by Gretchen Peters
Excellent, Based on 4 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Listening to AM radio during the daytime one is apt to hear Martina McBride belt out the chorus to “Independence Day”. The song serves as the theme to conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity’s program. Hannity’s misuse of the song is clear to anyone familiar with the lyrics about a mother getting revenge on her abusive husband while her child watches.
Songwriting icon Gretchen Peters underscores the brilliance of 2007's meditation of love lost and found, Burnt Toast & Offerings, with Hello Cruel World, as if it were a companion. Here, Peters catalogs the travails, wounds, and perils of living and loving in the 21st century; she examines humanity as an extraordinary event, a spiritual opportunity via the tragedies in our personal relationships, our economic disasters, our stupid ideologies, and our brief moments of triumph and celebration with equanimity. Each song refuses escape; Peters' poetic backbone celebrates the dignity in her protagonists as they struggle and thrive.
Though she first made a name for herself in the mid ‘90s, when Martina McBride turned her song “Independence Day” into a modern country standard, it’s taken singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters some time to find her way as a recording artist in her own right. Not until 2007’s Burnt Toast & Offerings did Peters sound entirely comfortable in incorporating first-person details into her songwriting, but on her latest, Hello Cruel World, her writing is as uninhibited and unflinching as it is dense and poetic. The result is an album of remarkable maturity, as Peters tackles tumultuous emotional conflicts head-on.
Nashville songwriter delivers unusual craft in her own fine voice. Ninian Dunnett 2012 Hello Cruel World opens with a laconic sigh. To a descending bassline, the title-track lists a comical catalogue of misfortunes for the 21st century, and then flips it right over: "Me, I’m gonna stick around, in for a penny in for a pound / ‘Cause I hate to miss the show… I’m a very stubborn girl." Of course, the writerly virtues and gentle string band arrangements of Gretchen Peters’ ninth album were never constructed for the mass market.