Single Review: Gretchen Peters, “Idlewild”


Gretchen Peters

Written by Gretchen Peters

Mature, complex, poetic, and deeply absorbing… at which point I realize that there are quite a few Gretchen Peters songs those adjectives could be used to describe, so I will be more specific.

“Idlewild” is a somber reflection on the world events of the mid-1960’s, including the Vietnam War and the assassination of President Kennedy.  What really makes it hit home is the way it takes events that occurred on the national stage, and brings it down to the level of the everyday person by telling the story from the perspective of a young girl growing up during the era.  The song draws a parallel between events both political and personal, highlighting the common thread that runs through the troubles all face – That hate begets hate, and that hate is all too often the root cause of the tragic events that shake up our lives.

Peters’ gifts as an interpretive singer are readily apparent here, as she brings a sense of deep empathy to her lyrical composition through her hushed, almost desperate-sounding performance.  Likewise, the bare-bones production arrangement complements the dark tone of the lyric, while the melody has an almost haunting quality to it.

“Idlewild” is a sterling example of the care and attention to detail that shines through in Gretchen Peters’ songcraft, and it’s a song that grows progressively deeper with each listen.  It is a fine and outstanding addition to an already impressive songwriting catalog.

Grade:  A



  1. Since I was 13 when the 60′s began I well remember the events noted in “Idlewild” and I even recall accompanying my mother on a drive to Idlewild in the mid 50’s to pick up a nurse friend of hers. However, I think the “A” rating is a stretch. It may have a haunting melody but it ain’t exactly in the same league with “Hello darkness my old friend” and the line about grandma riding Halley’s Comet from Ft. Lauderdale is a bit strange. Overall, the lyrics are interesting to read but I can’t imagine listening to it very often.

  2. @ Bob. You may be right to an extent but Bob at times the context of a song is more important than its actual standing. Here I think the events associated with the song have played the deciding role.

  3. “Mature, complex, poetic, and deeply absorbing”–I definitely agree, Ben, they are the very words that would describe this song, and a lot of other ones in Gretchen’s catalog (IMHO). They’re also the words that I think once defined country music once, but that’s only true now in the rarest of cases like this one.

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