Two of my favourite singer-songwriters are touring the UK now. The good news is that I can get to see one but, sadly, not the other.
I have mentioned in many blogs and countless Tweets how much I love living in Orkney, a part of the world frequently described as being “remote”.
But for those of us who live here it is the rest of the world that is remote, not ourselves. Remember, for the Vikings the Orkney Islands were at a crossroads between Scandinavia, Shetland, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
But one disadvantage of being here is not being able to get easily to see favourite bands and singers on concert tours. To be honest, since we came here there have not been too many times when I felt the urge to head south – with the grand exception of the trip my wife Kathie Touin and I made to London to see Kate Bush last year. What a fantastic concert that was.
But shortly we are off again, this time to see Gretchen Peters at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. I don’t want to be rude to you, or to Gretchen, but I imagine many of you have never heard of her. Let me tell you, if you don’t already know, she is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the early 21st century. So there.
Gretchen, an American, wrote a number of big country hits in the past, such as Independence Day (recorded by Martina McBride) and On A Bus To St Cloud (Trisha Yearwood). But don’t let the c-word, country, put you off – as I know it will for some.
She is now perhaps better categorised as an Americana artist, or better still, not categorised at all. And Gretchen is writing songs, and releasing albums, of amazing depth.
The sharp-eyed of you will notice that I have written about Gretchen’s music before but I am not making any excuses for that.
I would strongly recommend any of her output, but in particular her latest album Blackbirds – lots on the theme of death and old age to be found within – and her previous release, Hello Cruel World.
I could pick many examples but how about this lyric from The Cure For The Pain, from Blackbirds? This is not exactly mainstream Nashville:
“It’s not like you think it’s gonna be
Not like the movies that you see
Ain’t no soaring violins
Just machines and medicines”
But her songs are not just bleak, they are honest and life-affirming as well.
Here are two of Gretchen Peters’ songs. First, from Hello Cruel World, is Idlewild (the former name for JFK Airport). This reminds me of travelling in the back of the car as a child. But it says so much more, about families, about the USA…
And, from Blackbirds, this is Pretty Things, unusually for Gretchen she co-wrote this, with Ben Glover…
Here is the EPK, that’s electronic press kit for older readers, for the album Blackbirds in which Gretchen explains more…
I’m certainly looking forward to the concert in Edinburgh (and a chance for Kathie and I to explore the city).
Also touring in the UK is Kimmie Rhodes, also American, she is part of the thriving music scene in Austin, Texas – somewhere I would love to visit one day. She even made an album with Willie Nelson. Need I say more.
Her current tour takes in dates in England and Ireland, but not Scotland, or Wales for that matter. I wrote on Twitter that I have fond memories of Kimmie’s regular visits to the Weaver’s in London in the Nineties. It was a great music venue. She kindly wrote back to say she will be in London at the Old Queens Head on April 1. I had to explain I am not in London anymore.
Time and money prevents me from catching Kimmie this time but I hope to see her again on a future tour. Perhaps we can persuade her to come to Orkney?
Meanwhile there are many albums available, including the Covers album (some unusual songs covered here) and Kimmie’s latest, Cowgirl Boudoir, released a few days ago and hopefully landing on my doormat any day now.
For now here is Kimmie Rhodes at the recent C2C Festival in London, a beautiful performance of Love And Happiness, from her album Love Me Like A Song, a song she wrote with – and originally recorded with – Emmylou Harris…
Here is what Emmylou says about Kimmie: “Kimmie has the voice of a beautiful child coming from an old soul. She touches us where the better angels of our nature dwell, and I believe we need that now more than ever. If you haven’t before, do yourself a favour and bring her into your listening life.”
Thank you Gretchen and Kimmie for the great music. If you get a chance to see them live, buy a CD, get a download, please do so.
To find out more
My previous blog on Gretchen Peters –https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/gretchen-peters/
And Gretchen is in this one about Rosanne Cash –https://grahambrownorkney.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/rosannecash/