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Headliners: Grechen Peters, The Builders Association

  • Job#110628 Wexner Center<br/>PAGES watch House/Divided<br/>Drake Union - Thurber Theater<br/>OCT-5-2011<br/>Photo by Jay LaPrete<br/>Ohio State University

A songwriter’s world

Gretchen Peters boasts an illustrious history as a songwriter, having penned hits for Martina McBride (“Independence Day”), Faith Hill (“The Secret of Life”), Trisha Yearwood, Etta James, Anne Murray and Neil Diamond, among others. “I work in words,” she says. “I write music, too, but the words almost always come first for me. Sometimes they come in the shape of phrases or titles, and sometimes I find myself possessed by a general idea, the expression of which requires me to find the words through a painful, drawn-out process that feels a lot like mining a whole mountain for a nugget of gold.”

Bucking a music business culture that often perceives “singer” and “songwriter” as different jobs, Peters has released five albums of her own, delivering “songs about emotional thirsts that never get quenched” (Entertainment Weekly) in a “choir-girl voice that has a seductive hint of late nights and cigarettes” (Time magazine). The affective product of a series of personal and public tribulations — the worst flood in the history of her adopted hometown of Nashville, a friend’s suicide, the revelation by her child that he was transgender — her latest, “Hello Cruel World,” contains “no flowery prose, no false sentiments, no artificial anger or angst, just simple messages of life, love and loss wrapped up in elegant, organic arrangements” (Manchester Evening News) and is said to be “the album of her career” (NPR).

Currently on tour, she comes to the Iron Horse in Northampton on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. show. Matt Hebert opens. $12.50 advance; $15 at the door. 586-8686, iheg.com

A house’s tale

A New York-based performance and media company, The Builders Association blends stage performance, text, video, sound and architecture to creates productions about contemporary life and human experience in the 21st century. On view Thursday at the UMass Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, the troupe’s latest enterprise, “House/Divided,” uses John Steinbeck’s classic novel “The Grapes of Wrath” as a narrative backbone for a series of present-day tales about the mortgage crisis, tracking economic refugees and migrants from two eras of American history while exploring the meaning of home and homelessness. The production is built around an actual foreclosed house from Columbus, Ohio, which was dismantled and reassembled for the stage. Sometimes inhabited, sometimes abandoned, sometimes only imagined or remembered by those who have moved on or lost their dwellings, it functions as a tragic character subject to vicissitudes inflicted by various people and institutions, from an owner and renter to a local realtor to the trading desk at Goldman Sachs and all the way to the Swiss headquarters of reinsurance giant AIG.

7:30 p.m. $15, $25, $35 general; $10 college students and youth 17 and under. 545-2511. A technical rehearsal on Wednesday at 5 p.m. is free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion with John Stifler of the UMass Economics Department (545-0190 for reservations).

— Dan DeNicola

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