Grace Petrie: ‘Queer as Folk’
out now on CD and DL from Bandcamp
Review by Lisa Beth Black
‘Queer As Folk’ is Grace Petrie’s 6th studio album so those who are just discovering her are now spectularly late to the party, but they are arriving at the party in droves now (the album went straight to number 1 in the Amazon Folk Chart) and never has an artist deserved to go stellar as much as Grace, in my opinion.
This album is definitely more ‘folk’ than her others and folk musos are making positive noises about the new takes on traditional folk tunes on this album and on the clearly brilliant musicianship of Grace and her accompanying musicians – she has attracted some well-known names to work with her and her already very much appreciated by fans side-kick Caitlin Field.
I am not a folk muso – I came to Grace through my adoration of her punky and passionate up-to-the-minute protest songs and heart-squeezing love songs with lyrics that rival my favourite poets. What I also love about Grace is that she writes songs you want to dance to (her annual ‘Lefty Christmas’ gig is a riot and certainly not your typical sit-down folk club gig). This album will undoubtedly gain Grace many more folk fans but will not disappoint and will grow other elements of her fanbase.
Opening with her powerful acapella ‘A Young Woman’s Tale’ (a re-write of a traditional folk song ‘An Old Man’s Tale’) she sums up the disenfranchisement of her generation caused by New Labour’s neolibralism and Tory austerity. It ends with a feisty declaration that she’s “damn well gonna try” to change things and any lefty listening will be punching the air in solidarity.
‘Tom Paine’s Bones’ is another folk cover. I’m not familiar with the song but apparently Grace has upped the tempo and folkies I know are unanimously agreeing that Grace’s version is how it should now be performed forevermore. I love it. It is joyous and one I will definitely be dancing to.
The remaining cover ‘Beeswing’ is a beautiful love song, as is the self-penned ‘Departures’, one of two songs on the album Grace has written about travelling for work and missing her partner.
The other is ‘Northbound’ and whilst ‘Departures’ is delicately sung and probably my favourite track for its heart-warming portrayal of true love, ‘Northbound’ is another absolute barnstormer and Grace has recently released a brilliant video which shows her at her most adorable and is very much recommended viewing.
‘This House’ is a sad and very touching love song about an elderly man whose love has died and is a subtle narrative that touches on how being openly gay (even to oneself) was not always possible for previous generations.
‘Pride’ is an incredible, emotionally punchy protest song (written originally as an immediate response to the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016 and re-worked for this album) reminding us that we still have a long way to go in obliterating homophobia.
Which brings us to the most important track on the album… ‘Black Tie’. Important because no-one in my experience has or is writing such affirming messages for young LGBTQ+ women. I especially love the verse that comes down very clearly on the right side of the trans ‘debate’:
“I dared to utter that trans lives matter
And all I got was a TERF war”
and proves that Grace is the Bragg of her time for punchy political commentary. Plus it is the catchiest pop tune with some of the best Petrie rhymes –
‘The images that fucked ya
Were a patriarchal structure’.
The premise of the song (which also has a brilliant video that already has 16000 views on YouTube) is a postcard to her Year 11 self on the occasion of her prom and, although the song speaks primarily to ‘masculine’-presenting women (“No you won’t grow out of it / You will find the clothes that fit”) I think it has a wider reach to any listener who struggled in their teenage years with the pressure to conform to societal expectations of their gender.
The remaining songs on the album are reworked classics from her 2010 album ‘Tell Me a Story’ – the beautifully-written love songs ‘Iago’ and ‘Baby Blue’ and the protest anthem ‘Farewell to Welfare’ (which seems to get more relevant with every day of Tory government). I’m really glad that the influx of new Grace Petrie fans will come to these songs and fall in love with them as I did. I already know a few people with tattoos of lyrics from her song ‘Iago’. I think tattooists are going to be busy this year.