"I get a lot of juice from the musicians in the room," says Gretchen Peters.
In the case of her new album, 'Blackbirds,' "juice" is certainly understatement. Recorded in Nashville, the album features a who's who of modern American roots music: Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, Suzy Bogguss and more. But it's not the guests that make 'Blackbirds' the most poignant and moving album of Peters' storied career; it’s the impeccable craftsmanship, her ability to capture the kind of complex, conflicting, and overwhelming emotional moments we might otherwise try to hide and instead shine a light of truth and understanding onto them.
'Blackbirds' is, in many ways, an album that is unafraid to face down mortality. But rather than dwell on the pain of loss, the music finds a new appreciation for the life we're given.
If anyone can open up that conversation, it's Peters. Inducted into the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014, she has long been one of Music City's most beloved and respected artists, known never to shy away from darkness and struggle in her writing. Martina McBride's recording of her stirring "Independence Day," a song that deals with domestic abuse, was nominated for a Grammy and took home Song of the Year honors at the CMAs, and her work has been performed by everyone from Etta James and Neil Diamond to George Strait and Trisha Yearwood. "If Peters never delivers another tune as achingly beautiful as 'On A Bus To St. Cloud,'" People Magazine wrote, "she has already earned herself a spot among country's upper echelon of contemporary composers."
'Blackbirds' follows Peters' 2012 album 'Hello Cruel World,' which NPR called "the album of her career" and Uncut said "establishes her as the natural successor to Lucinda Williams." If anything, though, 'Blackbirds' truly establishes Peters as a one-of-a-kind singer and songwriter, one in possession of a fearless and endlessly creative voice.