Great intelligent, thoughtful songs. Unshowy and heartfelt yet powerful singing which holds attention. Generally ballad style with good tunes – some tracks slightly more up tempo. Well chosen style and level of accompaniment which generally allows voice to shine through. Favourites : ‘Border Town’, ‘I Was Looking For You’, ‘On a Bus to St Cloud’, ‘Circus Girl’. Gretchen Peters, who is (perhaps primarily) a prolific and leading songwriter, only releases albums infrequently yet she has an excellent voice. This is an excellent and very enjoyable album which showcases her outstanding singer-songwriter capability and stands favourable comparison with top albums from more well known singers.
I heard "On a bus to St Cloud" on the radio driving to work. I was bowled over by the voice and the song. I had never heard of Gretchen Peters before but was determined to find out more. I was lucky enough to find a copy of "The Secret of Life " in a local store. There is not a boring track on the CD. I particularly like the imagery in "Over Africa". The poem by YB Yeats "When you are old and grey and full of sleep" has always been my favourite and Gretchen's haunting reworking of this theme is moving without being overpoweringly sugary. There is a good mix of ballad and more upbeat songs but the voice is terrific. My only criticism is the booklet with the lyrics is really hard to read and not everyone has 20/20 vision, but there is nothing wrong with my hearing. I am looking forward to her work in the future.
Gretchen Peters is the undiscovered gem of contemporary American songwriting , undiscovered by the general public that is , as there is already a very impressive list of top line artists who have had hits with her songs . "The Secret Of Life" was a huge success for Faith Hill and "On A Bus To St Cloud" was one of Trisha Yearwood's most successful recordings . Never less than excellent and more usually outstanding , "The Secret Of Life" is an album that should be included in the collection of anyone who appreciates high quality thoughtful and sensitive music .
I had never heard of Gretchen a year ago and now she's a real favourite, up there with Tift Merritt, Anne McCue, Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams [...]. Love her voice, love the songs and she also has great timing. This album I like even more than Trio and Halcyon. There's not a poor track on it but real highlights for me are Waiting for the light, I ain't ever satisfied, When you are old and (best of all?) Circus girl.
Gretchen Peters has created a classic album. I am amazed how some writers conjure up a whole picture in just a few words. Gretchen seems to do this with ease. I first heard her on Radio 2 with "On a bus to St Cloud" and bought the CD on the strength of that and I wasn't disappointed.
A well produced album, this has given hours of enjoyment and it's easy to lose yourself in the lyrics.
"Waiting for the light to turn green" has everything, a great groove, fantastic submergance into the scenario, sublime use of tubular bells and wonderful production. "The secret of life" paints a cracking picture of a stereotypical American bar scene without drawing any conclusions - which seems to be the point of the song. "This uncivil war" is an ingeniuos combination of the civil war music along with a marriage break up - complete genius! "Independance day" again has fantastic production with beautifully balanced backing vocals and those tubular bells. However, and strangely enough, I actually think "When you are old" is one of the most beautiful lovesongs I have ever heard - it's real, it's gritty and there's none of that gooey rubbish you get in most contemporary songs around today - what's more, it's where I want to be when the time comes....
If you want something fresh and different, step outside the mainstream and indulge, you won't be disappointed!
Gretchen lives and works in Nashville - that may be a plus or a minus depending on your take on that town's associations - but she transcends genres with songwriting of high class and a beautiful, aching voice. "On a Bus to St Cloud" is one of the most affecting songs I've ever heard, wistful, poetic, beautifully played, arranged and sung. And many more delights besides - When you are Old, Circus Girl, Independence Day, Over Africa. A number of these songs get a reworking on the live Trio set, available only from her website, the quality of the material showing through in a pared-down voice, piano and guitar setting.
This is one of the most stunning albums I have ever heard. Quite what gift touches someone to enable them to write songs of this calibre is something I can only wonder. Even if you have never heard of Gretchen Peters (as I hadn't until recently), buy or download this album - you will not regret it.
Don't let the Nashville and C&W association put you off - this transcends all genres and labels.
Somewhat biased opinion I love everything that Gretchen has done so far, also seen her 3 times in concert so here goes what is especially good about this one. Another set of strong songs with lyrics that have a meaning and draw you in to really listen, try the title track The Secret of Life we all know where it's going but who else would have written it. A personal favourite is on a Bus to St Cloud again just sit back and listen.