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Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Debut of Gretel"

. . . On a beautiful spring evening Reva and her bandmates played a brief concert at a Vineyard hotel, celebrating Gretel's debut album, unreturnable dirt and its inaugural road trip. Road food, like Slim Jims and Twinkies, was served out of suitcases. But the real fun came from the band. Williams's voice and songwriting skills deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Dar Williams, Patty Larkin, and Sarah Harmer. Folk and bluegrass influences mix together in songs alternately melancholy and groovy. The lyrics, wise and occasionally playful, reflect someone who loves words as much as music. The opening lines of "Mercy" are "The rain stitches grief to the dogwoods as / I stitch myself to the world." The song, about two people separated-and joined-by faith, war, and love, ends on a note of quiet grace: "There are many storms but no fear / There are many saints / They live right here / They stand tall in the silences / Their eyes like wells / Their voices like bells." So you can tell others, years from now: you heard it here first, in a simple e-mail newsletter: Reva Williams has her Slim Jims and she's hitting the road to make great music and capture your heart. . . - Image Journal/Greg Wolfe

"Music Critic's Pick: Gretel"

The name “Gretel” suggests a fairy tale, but it’s a fairy tale with teeth—after all, the story’s about kids being lured into a gingerbread house that isn’t what it seems. Likewise, Boston’s experimental folk trio Gretel make music that’s both fantastical and rife with insight into weighty things, be they ugly or pretty. Led by singer-songwriter Reva Williams with keyboardist Melissa Meyers and multi-instrumentalist Phil DuPertuis, the group released their Meteorite EP last year. (As a testament to their DIY innovativeness, they sell it as a bare-bones CD or in an elaborate, surprise-filled box.) Standout “Carlotta” slinks in with ominous strains of clarinet and saw, and rolls into a jaunty shuffle with a fetching melodic hook. Gretel’s shows are wonderfully textured affairs. Williams sings with Sam Phillips’ penetrating directness and unfettered range of expression, and—in addition to adding vocal harmonies with DuPertuis—Meyers makes imaginative use of a typewriter and a five-gallon plastic bucket. 9 p.m. at The 5 Spot —JEWLY HIGHT - Nashville Scene

"Reva Williams and Gretel"

...The music business is a strange world. People do karaoke to old Motown and Rod Stewart songs on American Idol and become instant stars. Meanwhile, hundreds of deserving singer/songwriters and bands toil in virtual obscurity, waiting for the big break that may or may not ever arrive. I won’t flatter myself with the illusion that I have any kind of clout to make or break anybody. But I do know that Reva and her band are deserving of that big break, and that the world would be a better place if that happened.

I’ve seen hundreds of concerts over the years; okay, over the decades. And this was one of the best I’ve seen. Reva played guitar and banjo, and sang in a powerhouse raspy howl of a voice that reminded me of Lucinda Williams. She writes songs about being a fucked up human being in love with Jesus some days and just in love with herself other days. Sounds about right to me. Her poetic imagery was startling; beautiful, and disturbing and uncomfortable. Melissa Myers played keyboards, snare drum, and saw (!) and added sweet harmonies that perfectly complimented Reva’s scuffed alto. Bass player Phil DePertuis filled the Hansel role and added harmony vocals. It all left me with a big, shit-kickin’ grin on my face.

There are two albums for your listening pleasure: Unreturnable Dirt, from 2005, and a new 6-song EP called The Meteorite. I think Reva’s getting better, so I’d actually recommend the EP if I had to choose. The songs on Unreturnable Dirt are just fine (actually, a lot better than fine; they’re close to brilliant), but the production and arrangements are a little more subdued than what I heard in concert, and come a little closer to the standard singer/songwriter fare of folks such as Dar Williams. The EP is more raw and adventurous, with woozy clarinet threading through the proceedings and some very unstandard songwriting structures. I like it a lot. And the new songs I heard this weekend, and which have yet to be recorded, convince me that the best is yet to come. There’s a song called (I think) “Jesus” that I can’t wait to hear again. It’s the kind of desperate hymn that people who are out of hope write. So buy Reva’s music and give her some hope. We could all use that these days. And you just might find a smidgen for the future of the music industry as well. - Razing the Bar (Andy Whitman)

"Listen Up: Gretel's "The Dregs""

I suspect that every songwriter dreams of writing a song like “Car Bomb Times.” It’s a triumph of songwriting that matches provocative lyrics with a hypnotic melody. What begins as a quiet folk song built around singer-songwriter Reva Williams banjo and hushed vocals builds into a rich tapestry of harmonies. It is these types of textured arrangements — combined with the tremendous musicianship of band members Williams, Melissa Myers and Phil DuPertuis – that define Boston-based Gretel’s sound.

The band’s remarkable musicianship is the perfect compliment to their stellar harmonies. In concert their “instruments” range from a saw to a plastic bucket to an old typewriter. On record the band expands the palate to include a cello and a variety of horns. Similar to the Low Anthem, Gretel selects the instruments that best serve the song.

album coverAt the core, however, are William’s powerful songs. They have a dark intensity that lull the listener with a gentle folk melody and then sting with a turn of a phrase. “I sold my soul in a deal with the devil now the devil wants out,” she declares on “Salt,” a self-proclaimed meditation on the book of Jonah.

Williams finds equal inspiration in the depths of personal relationships. “The world falls apart a few times a day, it don’t matter if you’re ready and it don’t matter if you pray,” she reminds a lover on the half-pleading “Renegade.” It is a mix of strength and vulnerability that, typical of the entire album, is mesmerizing.

by Mayer Danzig

original link: - Twangville

"Review of "The Dregs""

Gretel - The Dregs
2009, Eyeteeth Records

New England anti-folk trio Gretel is led by the enigmatic and engaging Reva Williams. The band recently released their sophomore CD on Eyeteeth Records. The disc, entitled The Dregs, mixes it up with the lowest of the low and finds beauty even amongst the lost, the forgotten and the hopeless. The Dregs illuminates beauty with dark light infused with the hope that even the hopeless hold onto.

The Dregs opens with Turn The Lights Back On, Pt. 1, a plodding coffee house piece with some interesting vocal harmonies. The song covers the bases of hatred, indifference and self-disgust and is a tough intro (more for the arrangement than anything else). Car Bomb Times laments the times we live in, like the fact that people can afford to self-medicate but can't afford to see a doctor (although this could be a double-edged argument). The minimalist arrangement uses vocal harmonies to build balance and contrasts and is very much off the beaten track; a great tune. Jesus! (Where Did You Go?) continues the general theme of Car Bomb Times, questioning where God has gone in a society that seems to be winding down. That Great History is a wonderful and frustrating musical venture. At 1:20 in length, it's just too short for how good it is. The selfish listener in me wants Gretel to realize this is a full-length tune, although the musician in me recognizes it might not be what it is if forced to be more than it's meant to be. Sheesh.

Renegade is a decent country tune about falling for bad boys, but is a bit different than the typical song in that realm. The narrator here is a tough woman, a plains woman perhaps, and can very much hold her own. Do Over is a song for the morning after, the day after or any of the countless missteps we make in life. The subject matter could get moral but Gretel stays away from such issues except perhaps by subtle implication. O Put Me Under is a wonderfully confounding listen. How can a song be lush and sound primitive all at once? You'll ask yourself this time and time again as you keep hitting replay. O Put Me Under is heartfelt and powerful; a pure expression of sadness that isn't so much sorrow as resignation. Turn The Lights Back On, Pt. 2 is amazingly, wonderfully schizophonic, drawing on sounds as diverse as Rock, Folk and Dixieland Jazz in a musical experience you won't soon forget. Don't bother with traditional music structure; Gretel certainly didn't here, but they did manage to create a significant song that deserves some serious attention. The Dregs closes out with Your Flame, a decent tune in its own right that is unfortunately anti-climactic after Turn The Lights Back On, Pt. 2.

I badly wanted to pull this disc out during the first song the first time I listened to it. I had so much ill will toward the disc and the band from the first song that it wasn't until about the fourth or fifth song that I realized The Dregs is something special. I still don't particularly like the opening track, but the rest of the disc is absolutely unforgettable. It's perhaps an acquired taste, but Gretel has an amazing vocalist in Reva Williams, and writes atypical, memorable songs that should help them build a rabid (if moderate) fan base. Make sure you check out The Dregs; you won't be sorry.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

original link: - Wildy's World

"Trifecta Perfecta: Justin Townes Earl, Gretel, Will Gray"

It was one of the strangest triple bills I've ever encountered -- country traditionalist Justin Townes Earle, indie-folk stalwarts Gretel, and hip-hop/roots artist Will Gray. Imagine Hank Williams hanging out with Leslie Feist hanging out with Questlove and The Roots and you're in the ballpark. Or, in this case, the bar; specifically, Cafe Rumba in the north campus neighborhood. Nashville, Boston, and L.A. came to Columbus. It was an unprecedented geographic and stylistic mashup, and it was was an astonishingly redemptive, soulful batch of fun.

Justin Townes Earle, as he took some pains to point out, is not only Steve Earle's son, but his mother Carol's son (wife number 3 of 8, for those keeping score at home). To say that there are a few unresolved, simmering father/son issues might be a major understatement. I saw Justin last spring at an outdoor festival. He was uneasy in front of a large crowd, I was 500 feet from the stage, and the resulting set left me underwhelmed. There were no such problems last night. Playing in front of a hundred people tightly packed into a dive bar, Justin and musical cohort Cory Younts absolutely ripped it up, playing a two-hour set that featured most of the songs from Justin's two albums The Good Life and Midnight at the Movies, and wide-reaching covers from The Replacements, Randy Newman, Townes Van Zant, and Buck Owens. This was the real truckstop jukebox shitkickin' deal, and watching Earle on stage, and listening to that impossibly raw, keening voice, it was impossible not to imagine oneself transported back to Montgomery, Alabama in the late '40s, as Hank Williams was rocketing off on an all-too-short but brilliant career. Look at that photo. I suspect Justin might be aware of those comparisons, too. But look, they're deserved. The guy absolutely channels Hank, and he writes some tunes that can hold their own with the master. He's also a very fine picker, an aspect that isn't highlighted enough on his albums, and with Younts on banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and harmony vocals, they roared through a honky-tonk set that was pure magic, and that left me grinning from ear to ear.

Gretel, these three attractive Bostonians to the left, play raw, uncompromising folk music that belies their wholesome image. Singer/songwriter Reva Williams (on the right) writes and sings poetic, introspective soul scourings that are frequently disquieting and alarming in their intensity. Check out some of the lyrics from "Car Bomb Times":

Angels or doctors I can't afford
But I can pay to get fucked up when I get bored
Forty days and forty nights now I prayed to the Lord
I think he said it's high time I fall on my own sword ...

These are car bomb times, these are car bomb days
These are scared girl/boy rhymes, these are scared girl/boy ways

Don't look for it at a worship conference near you any time soon. But if you value honest songwriting sung in a Lucinda Williams howl, and if you're one of the three or four Christians who doesn't have his/her life totally together, you might find some thoughts that resonate pretty deeply. Kate and I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out with Reva, Melissa, and Phil at dinner, and I'm so thankful for their musical talent, their unflinching writing, and their friendship. Their new album Dregs, out in April, is well worth your time.

Will Gray and band took the stage about 1:30. I was skeptical: two rappers, a turntable maestro, an acoustic guitar player, a banjo picker (Reva Williams, from Gretel), and a cellist. Sure, dude. Good luck.

And it was absolutely mind-blowing. The rhymes were fabulous, Will Gray sang like an old-school Marvin Gaye, and that band, impossibly, gelled into a rockin', funky, folky R&B Americana machine. It was the freshest music I've heard in months. Will is currently recording his debut album with T Bone Burnett at the producer's helm. Watch for it in late summer or early fall. I know I will be.

Check out the video for Will's song "Back to the Wall" right here.

We left the house at 8:00 p.m., dragging our tired, middle-aged butts out for a night on the town. We arrived home at 3:00 a.m. and neither one of us wanted to go to bed. Such is the power and the wonder of great music. We saw it in abundance last night, a strange and wondrous sonic shot of joy. I live for nights like that, and I'm so thankful that every once in a while they turn from wistful dreams to reality.

original link: - Paste Magazine


11 Songs (Reva Williams; solo acoustic effort--June 2004)
Unreturnable Dirt (April 2005)
The Meteorite EP (June 2007)
The Dregs (June 2009)



While doubt and anxiety are common 21st century preoccupations, Gretel's emotive honesty is of the type usually reserved for confessionals and bathroom stalls. Lyrics of disappointment and denial, tales of death and anomie all shimmer with precision and intensity, while the melodies and harmonies, the instrumentation and the energy of their live shows glitter with the possible, the have-able, the low-key lush of the here and now.

The sound is eclectic, borrowing from folk music, alt country, punk and the blues. Whether through the mundane nostalgia of a typewriter, the ecstatic heights of an operatic line, the eerie swan song of a bowed saw, or the feel-good sneaking sorrow of a country tune, Gretel’s palette is broad. Each song sits within its own well-deserved world, refreshingly interpreted and never underexposed.

This Boston-based group, led by songwriter and mouthpiece Reva Williams, are about to birth their third studio project, The Dregs, a lamentation for the corps of the anti-nothing on their co-op label, Eyeteeth Records.