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Gretchen PetersGretchen Peters
Album: The Essential Gretchen Peters
Label: Proper
Tracks: 27

2016 is a momentous year for Gretchen Peters and her UK fans. It marks, somewhat unbelievably, 20 years since 1996, when she played her first few UK gigs to promote her first CD release; The Secret of Life. Having previously been known as a master songwriter for others, this real ease heralded her new journey as a singer and what a journey it's been! From her playing solo, to the addition of the talented and lovely (and now Gretchen's husband) Barry Walsh on piano and accordion, a wide variety of musicians she's introduced us to, from John Lester and Ben Glover, to Christine Bougie a dog course, her wonderful creation of Wine Women and Song with Suzy Bogguss and Matraca Berg.

To mark this landmark year, Gretchen has a series of dates around the UK, which coincide with the release of her Essential Gretchen Peters CD; twenty seven tracks, on 2CDs, of much loved songs and previously unheard material. Recording demos, bonus tracks, work tapes and live recordings, all make an appearance on the second disc. Together, these highlight her incredible talents not only as a singer and a songwriter, but as an interpreter of others' writing, also.

Thirteen much loved songs feature on the first disc, covering all of her CDs to date. Admittedly there are some I'd have loved to see feature, but many I'd have chosen are present; Guadalupe (with Tom Russell,) Five Minutes, The Secret of Life and If Heaven. On A Bus to St Cloud makes a welcome appearance; the song which Gretchen herself says found its own life here in the UK. I am glad The Aviator's Song was included, as for almost four hundred fans in the North East, it holds a priceless memory; the night she played it, in all its rawness, at Sage Gateshead, the night after her father, about whom the song was written, passed away. Moments and memories captured indeed.

A surprise, but brilliant, inclusion is When You Love Someone, with Bryan Adams, a song I first heard sung by Bryan on the film Hope Floats.

As for disc two, I won't give it all away, but there are such treasures as an acoustic version of Independence Day, a live version of Woman on the Wheel, Wild Horses with Suzy and Matraca, and original work tapes of Five Minutes and Chill of an Early Fall. I will leave the unexpected, but well chosen covers as a surprise.

All in all a wonderful collection...a great starting point for any new to Gretchen and for those of us privileged enough to have been there from the beginning, a wonderful way to recap upon that remarkable twenty year journey she has shared with us.

Helen Mitchell