Gretchen Peters with Tom Russell | One To The Heart, One To The Head

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Gretchen Peters' Official Website Gretchen Peters on MySpace Gretchen Peters on Facebook Tom Russell's Official Website Tom Russell on MySpace Tom Russell on Facebook

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Folk: Alternative Folk Folk: Folk-Rock Moods: Type: Acoustic
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One To The Heart, One To The Head

by Gretchen Peters with Tom Russell

An evocative, soaring western mood piece, this album is a collaboration between two distinctive American singer-songwriters, Gretchen Peters and Tom Russell.
Genre: Folk: Alternative Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. North Platte
0:56 $0.99
2. Prairie In The Sky
4:40 $0.99
3. Billy 4
5:36 $0.99
4. Blue Mountains of Mexico
3:37 $0.99
5. These Cowboys Born Out Of Their Time
4:12 $0.99
6. Guadalupe
5:39 $0.99
7. Sweet & Shiny Eyes
3:00 $0.99
8. Wolves
4:15 $0.99
9. Snowin' On Raton
4:23 $0.99
10. Old Paint
3:08 $0.99
11. My Last Go Round
3:43 $0.99
12. North Platte (reprise)
1:07 $0.99
13. If I Had A Gun
3:10 $0.99
14. Prairie Melancholy
6:09 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
"Two talented songwriters lay their pens down for a cover album that's one of the best folk records in recent memory."
- PopMatters

"These are two heavyweights and they bring their considerable collective talents to bear on a great release."
- Twangnation

"Peters is an intuitive singer whose lovely voice projects warmth and sincerity. Russell is her deep-toned counterpart. Together, they convey the truths of each lyric with subtle artistry. Peters and Russell have crafted an album as interesting as it is entertaining -- an early candidate for album of the year."
- Raleigh, NC News & Observer

"Unusually for Peters every track is a cover, but her choices are impeccable. The pick of them is “If I Had A Gun”, a song powerful in any hands but here the listener is given a bit of a shock by having her hauntingly beautiful and rich voice sing the bleak and nihilistically violent lyrics. Not far behind is the duet on Bob Dylan’s “Billy 4” from his Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack, where Russell provides bitter granite vocals while Peters sings with gumption and conviction. That said, there really isn’t a weak track on the album... Peters’ performances are a career high, and Russell continues his astonishing late run of success on what is, quite simply, as good an album as you’ll hear all year."
- Americana UK

"...a stunning collection of mostly western-themed songs. Several tracks, including Bob Dylan’s Billy 4 – featuring terrific Tex-Mex accordion playing by Joel Guzman which underscores the song’s borderland theme – and Townes Van Zandt’s Snowin’ On Raton, are performed in duet with co-producer Tom Russell. Peters does strikingly gorgeous versions of Russell’s Guadalupe, which also features some evocative accordion playing by Guzman weaving in and around her voice, and Rosalie Sorrels’s My Last Go Round. These songs do, indeed, hit directly into the heart and the head. Four and a half stars of five"
- Montreal Gazette

"Peters the songwriter understands, intimately, the genetic code that guarantees the song will touch the listener.
10 out of 10"
- Folkwax Magazine

"The title, One To The Heart, One To The Head, could suggest, among a plethora of metaphors, a duet of beautiful deadly blows. A double-shot of love, or something other. A one-two punch. A brace of kisses. The virtue of mercy, twice-blessed. Whatever way you cut it or call it, we're talking Gretchen Peters' and Tom Russell's soulful cowboy-music universe paralleling the musical universes of, say, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, of Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler. Beyond the prowess of the vocals, however, and beyond the virtuosity--especially the keyboard artistry of Barry Walsh flashing us back like glass-plate sepia-toned photographs of piano-men sitting 16-hands-tall aboard opera house stages of the horseback 1800s--and beyond the top-shelf production work in the studio--beyond all the tangible radiant facets of this gem of a record--shines Gretchen Peters' genuine love for the emotional landscape, solace to chaos, of our contemporary West and the songs that keep it honest."

- Paul Zarzyski, poet, spoken word artist and recipient of the 2005 Montana Governor’s Arts Award For Literature

From Gretchen Peters:
In Boulder, Colorado, where I spent 17 years of my life, there lived an Indian chief named Niwot. The story was that Niwot had put a curse on the area, so that anyone who came would never be able to leave. I moved away in 1987, but the West got under my skin and it's still there. My newly divorced mother moved west from New York in 1970 with me in tow, seeking freedom from the suburbs, from the social conventions of her former life, from a world she no longer had any use for.
As Tom and I were sifting through the songs for this record, I began to realize the extent to which growing up in the West shaped me, musically and otherwise. There is nothing so starkly beautiful and lonely as a prairie sunrise, or a mountain pass covered with new fallen snow, or the sound of chinook winds howling.
There is nothing extraneous, nothing extravagant in that landscape, except perhaps for the impossibly blue sky - but even that technicolor space is mostly empty. If you have come from the abundantly green eastern part of the US, it takes time for your eye to adjust to the subtleties of the desert, or the high plains, or the Rocky Mountains.
But living out west taught me to appreciate a certain kind of spare beauty which I tried to transmute into songs. When Tom suggested this collaboration it seemed unlikely to me; now it seems inevitable.
I'm ever grateful to Tom Russell for having the artistic vision for this album, and the talent and energy to bring it to fruition. I'd like to dedicate this recording to my mother Ann who loves the West as much as anyone I know.

From Tom Russell:
Gretchen Peters came out of Colorado listening to Bob Dylan and Mary McCaslin – she went on to become one of the most successful writers in Nashville – yet she maintained a poetic stance among the disposable country popsters in funny hats. She’s also one of our great singers. I figured she should harken up her roots and turn toward western themes… and here it is; evocative undertones are added by the keyboards of the great Barry Walsh, who played with Waylon Jennings and the Box Tops. This record sounds like the West I long for… ancient, whispering, parched, desolate, bushwhacked, half-drunk, windswept and crazy… crazy with memorable ghosts. And hell, we got some Townes Van Zandt and Dylan on it too…

-TR El Paso

Gretchen Peters’ musical career has grown like a Virginia creeper: new leaves spreading in one direction first, then another, then another still. The result is lush and impressive, though it didn’t get that way all at once.

Peters has the sort of creative impulse that inevitably finds the fertile spots, which is a wonderful thing from the standpoints of quality and longevity, even if it can be a little unpredictable. Circus Girl: The Best of Gretchen Peters is a welcome chance, then, to retrace how her songs have grown—and keep growing—from their roots in her singular storytelling gifts. In other words, it’s a chance to take in the full effect thus far.

Says Peters of the collection’s 15 carefully selected songs, “What I was amazed by was that there was a continuity to them, that they hung together, all of them, from these disparate times.” Indeed, they do.

Peters arrived in Nashville in the late ‘80s, a singing, songwriting product of New York, Boulder, Colorado and politically active parents. Perplexed by the artificial division of labor in the commercial country music industry, she concluded it would be best to seek a publishing deal first. “I didn’t understand the whole delineation between singer and songwriter,” she explains. “Everybody that I knew was a singer-songwriter, did it all. I couldn’t really conceive of myself in any other light.”

And so began a season of striking commercial success. Peters got a publishing deal, and her closely observed story-songs hit a sweet spot with some of mainstream country’s finest voices of the ‘90s; “On a Bus to St. Cloud” with Trisha Yearwood, “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” with Patty Loveless, “Chill of an Early Fall” with George Strait, “Let That Pony Run” with Pam Tillis and—most famously—“Independence Day” with Martina McBride. Culturally and critically the impact of “Independence Day”—an arresting song about an abused woman fighting back—still reverberates. It earned Peters a GRAMMY nomination and CMA Song of the Year honors.

“It just seemed like getting the first olive out of the jar, they just started coming,” Peters says of her string of cuts. “And it was great, but it wasn’t really my master plan or anything. I was just as surprised as anybody.”

A turning point came in the mid-‘90s, when Peters got a record deal and the chance to record her own songs exactly as she felt they ought to be done. In 1996 (The Secret of Life) and every few years after (Gretchen Peters in 2001 and Halcyon in 2004) she offered a set of sophisticated folk-pop songs, sung in a fetching soprano that’s as sultry as it is girlish, and rendered with the sensitivity and patience to tease out the nuance in every corner of a story.

If commercial country audiences didn’t quite know how to categorize Peters’ music, U.K. audiences fell in love immediately. Her shows have sold out there ever since. “From the first time I went over there to play, the audiences were so great,” she recalls. “They just didn’t hold those rigid ideas of what you were supposed to be, and to me that felt like blessed relief. It was almost as though my limitations were my blessings over there.”

Midway through the 2000s, Peters’ career arrived at a series of watershed moments. Veteran folk singer-songwriter Tom Russell declared himself a fan, inviting her to sing on his recordings—and, eventually, to do an album of cowboy and Western covers together (2009’s One to the Heart, One to the Head)—and introducing her to the lively circuit of folk clubs and festivals across the U.S. She found a welcoming home there, even though some of the older songs in her repertoire had been hits in commercial country, about as alien a world from the folk scene as is imaginable.

“With a certain folk crowd, that’s not a plus,” Peters says. “But what I figured out is they’re songs. If you play them for people, especially if you play them in the context that I do—which is just me or it’s just me and [keyboardist] Barry [Walsh]—they lose the affectation of the genre, whatever that might be, and they just are.”

She realized, finally, that performing her songs live at every opportunity is just as vital to her as writing and recording them: “I could see that life was short, careers are even shorter, mine is finite. I have some time, while I still feel like I want to be out there doing it. By god, I’m not going to wait anymore. And that was that.” Now she’s touring more than ever before—and relishing it.

And there were more bold steps where those came from. Peters has always shown an uncanny ability to capture the stories of people—especially women—who feel trapped in hope-draining situations. With her 2007 album, Burnt Toast & Offerings, she mined her own life—the disintegration of her twenty-year marriage and risk-taking on a new love—for just such affecting vignettes, and set a new high watermark for her songwriting.

It’s only right, then, that Circus Girl would feature works from each of these seasons; “On a Bus to St. Cloud” and “When You Are Old” from The Secret of Life, “In a Perfect World” and “Picasso and Me” from Gretchen Peters, “Tomorrow Morning” and “The Aviator’s Song” from Halcyon, “They Way You Move Me” and “This Town” from Burnt Toast & Offerings. And it’s fitting, too, that “Circus Girl”—a personal favorite from her first album, about the circus, the music industry, and the girl inside who’s driven to entertain—would be the title track.

“When you write a song like that, it could be ten years before you realize what that third level is,” Peters muses. “That’s the kind of song that has some ambiguity and some places that it will take you long, long after you first hear it.”

Tom Russell has recorded 25 records and one DVD. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Doug Sahm, Nanci Griffith, Joe Ely, Iris Dement, Ian Tyson, kd lang, Suzy Bogguss, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dave Van Ronk and other great artists.

Russell is credited, along with Dave Alvin, with inventing the Americana radio format with their Merle Haggard tribute Tulare Dust in 1994. The Columbus Other wrote, “Russell seems to have invented, and keeps reinventing, American Roots music… He’s the strongest live performer we have seen in years.
Russell was born in Los Angeles in 1953 and now makes his home on a 2.68 acre “badland farm” on the border of El Paso-Juarez. He graduated from the University of California with a Master’s degree in Criminology and taught school in Nigeria during the Biafran war, before relocating to Vancouver to begin his musical career singing Hank Williams’ songs in skid row bars.
Tom Russell has published three books: a detective novel (in Scandinavia), a compendium of songwriting quotes with Sylvia Tyson (And Then I Wrote – Arsenal Press), and a book of letters with Charles Bukowski (Tough Company – Mystery Island Press).
Russell is also an established painter represented by Yard Dog Folk Art in Austin and Marfa.
In 2007 Hightone Records release Wounded Heart Of America, a collection of artists who have recorded Tom Russell’s songs – from Johnny Cash to Eliza Gilkyson. The record also includes Russell’s version of his Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall? which won the 2008 Folk Alliance Song of the Year.



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