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Gretchen
by Paul Landkamer
03/10/06
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Gretchen-awareness came fairly early in my quest for decent Christian rock. I put off acting on that awareness for over three years. Then one day while music-hunting, I ran across Gretchen's website and MD Records. MD Records carried the Gretchen CD I'd heard of, and their (then) new one. I hadn't been hunting for anything in particular, and I remembered Gretchen sounded intriguing, so I ordered 'em both.

I want, so much, to avoid comparing Gretchen with Evanescence. I'll say Gretchen is hard and heavy with female vocals and one song reminds me of Evanescence both instrumentally and in vocal intensity. Gretchen put it best, on their website: Heavy Melodic Happy Gothic Chic Rock. I've got to smile as I read that. Gretchen counts among their influences, King's X, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Sound Garden and Ozzy Osbourne. Those musical influences with Christian and clean lyrics blend to make for a must-have band in any rock-flavored Christian music collection.

The book in which I "discovered" Gretchen, and which I most-frequently reference (Mark Allan Powell's Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music), says about Gretchen, there's a resemblence to Veruca Salt or Alanis Morissette. I couldn't say, though lots of the female vocalists I like have been compared to Morissette. Powell also quotes Phantom Tollbooth as saying of Mouthful of Nails (2001), "sounds like 'what would happen if Leigh Nash (of Sixpence None the Richer) suddenly decided to perform heavy metal.'" In my opinion, Leigh Nash has one of the most beautiful voices in popular music, so that's quite a compliment to Gretchen.

I got different impressions different times I listened to Gretchen. One night, while listening on my home stereo, I liked the wholes of both CDs. Then, the next day, while listening in my delivery van, I heard lots of white-noisy cymbals and guitar. I had to turn it down a few times, but it never got bad enough to turn it off. Maybe it was the system in the van, or maybe my mood, or I might have even been congested. As I listen to them now while I write this, I'm lovin' it, and not hearing the white noise. Anyway, I listen to Gretchen loud, on purpose, and frequently. I like 'em.

My take on their overall sound is they're darkish modern heavy rock with some '80s flavor guitar licks. The vocals are often ethereal, and always crisp and clear with no force growling like too many heavy bands (both male and female fronted) feature. And like always, I love to see a husband/wife team in music. The band was founded by Dave and Mia Richards. Dave does guitar and Mia does the vocals. They also founded MD Records, but I'll let their website tell you about that company.

Lyrically, Gretchen isn't an in-your-face turn-or-burn preachy band. The lyrics aren't going to offend the unsaved, but if you're listening for a message, it's obvious. I could picture people saying, "Wow, Gretchen is a Christian band?" and then going back to listen to their songs to really hear and understand the lyrics. Too many Christian artists put off potential listeners before they have a chance to understand the message. Gretchen will reach many who might not otherwise get Jesus.

If you like hard rock with clean lyrics, Gretchen's a great choice. Give 'em a listen, I think you'll be well pleased!

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