Hello Cruel World by Gretchen Peters

Gretchen, a writer of hits for the likes of George Strait and Martina McBride, penned the latter’s controversial 1994 hit “Independence Day,” winning for the singer/songwriter, in essence, her own artistic independence.

Her folk-meets-alternative pop style wouldn’t necessarily rule out a career in mainstream country, though the complexity and thematic reach of her music pretty much nix that possibility. Her penetrating and insightful songs don’t take the easy road to a tuneful chorus you’ll be humming half a day later; they pull back the curtain on uncomfortable truths about life, sounding as if they could only have been borne from painful personal experiences.

Still, Peters paints the wounded and sometimes wiser women in her well-tooled songs with compassion and a determination to discourage judgment or easy conclusions. Her recurring implication that this life may be all we have is a bold notion that may bring relief or dismay—and your response to that notion will tell you whether or not Hello Cruel World is an album you’ll greet with open arms.

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