review: ‘Heart First Aid Kit’ by Grace Petrie

by Lisa Black

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So good I bought it twice before I even heard it!

For a self-confessed Grace Petrie obsessive like myself, a new Grace album is like all your birthdays and Christmas arriving at once. I bought the download as soon as it was released even though I was at Glastonbury where you can’t use your phone for listening to music if you hope to be able to contact friends when you lose them (without spending an hour waiting in queue for the recharge tent). I even knew I wouldn’t have the chance to listen to the digital album before I inevitably bought the CD when it was released a few days later, to bring the Grace Petrie section in my CD collection up-to-date.

If you haven’t joined the Petrie fan club yet, you’ve got some catching up to do – this is her 5th album, plus she released a 6 track EP last year [There’s No Such Thing As a Protest Singer] and a live album in 2014 [Live at St Pancras Old Church] – but I envy your inevitable falling in love moment.

I had mine in early 2012 when I, already tragically late to the party, heard Petrie’s first album (Tell Me a Story, 2010) and was stopped in my tracks by this bold young voice that spoke the truth about longing and loss and sang fresh and timely political songs you could dance and sing along to that had enough wit, passion and poetry to rival Billy Bragg’s. When I searched for more of Grace’s music online I read a review that said something along the lines of ‘Like many others, I have fallen in love with her’ and I have come to enjoy Grace’s gigs (and I’ve been to a few now – on average one a month over the last couple of years) as much for the joy of watching the uninitiated fall under her spell as anything else. Like Bragg, Grace gives her gig-goers a heady mix of pop/folk, poetry, political passion and laughs and comes across as such a lovely person you want her to be your best friend.

This album seems all the more precious because it contains several songs that Grace has been playing live for a while now and fans have been dying to have in their hands because they are Petrie at her finest. ‘Nobody Knows That I’m a Fraud’ and ‘The Vegan Song’ are perfectly crafted to be brilliantly funny. You’ll still be laughing at the rhymes on the 10th listen.

Fierce protest songs such as ‘God Save the Hungry’, ‘Make America Hate Again’ and the heartbreaking ‘Bad Guys’ (written in response to the vote for airstrikes on Syria) rile at recent developments in politics at home and abroad while ‘You Build a Wall’ ends the album with a hopeful call to collective action (“You build a wall, we’ll build a bridge”).

But in my view on this album, as on those that came before, it is in the love songs where Petrie’s genius shines the brightest. ‘Sunshine’, ‘She’s Not You’ and ‘Done Deal’ are all achingly beautiful and tender. ‘The Golden Record’ (which tells the true story of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s ultimate mix tape) is a perfect love song with several lines that have gone straight into my Top Ten Petrie Lyrics (“And I couldn’t stop it, not for anyone”).

The stand out track for me is ‘Coldwaterproofjacket’- a perfect pick-me-up song that is so gorgeously hooky and lyrically brilliant (“You bring me up like a deep sea diver”)…I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ‘Heart First Aid Kit’ to cure my Post-Glastonbury Blues.

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Lisa Black getting a cwtch from Grace Petrie herself

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