Review: Gretchen Peters and The Southern Fried String Quartet, Whitby Pavilion, April 14

"Y'ALL had your fish and chips?" enquired Nashville country singer Gretchen Peters, having enjoyed the hospitality of the Yorkshire coast on Sunday.

Northern fried fish supper and The Southern Fried String Quartet, what a combination to finish off the weekend as the waves rolled in. This was night two of Peters' Strings Attached tour, a rare chance to encounter her songs with orchestral embellishment: a format she was reprising from Glasgow's Celtic Connections Festival earlier this year.

First, however, she played an opening set with her regular band, led by long-time pianist Barry Walsh, joined on bass by Conor McCreanor and cosmic country electric guitar by Colm McLean, opening with When All You Got Is A Hammer ("everything looks like a nail"). Actually, there is nothing of the hammer about Gretchen Peters. Yes, she hits the target with her stories torn from life's pages and lessons learnt, but she writes with wit and wisdom, never with tabloid sensationalism.

Peters' show was built around 2015's Blackbirds and 2018's Dancing With The Beast, albums that have taken her songwriting to new heights, coupled with such earlier career peaks as Five Minutes, When You Love Someone and On A Bus To St Cloud.

A lonesome violin had a cameo in the first set, before the strings attached en masse post-interval for the full Southern Fried effect, but placed at the back, ironically too often they played second fiddle in the sound balance to the guitar and piano.

Charles Hutchinson