Mary Gauthier doesn't have a "pretty" voice. But then, a pretty voice couldn't sing these songs and make them real. Many people describe the tales she puts to music as peppered with characters of a seedy underworld. However, with a personal understanding of her subjects and their situations born of experience, Mary paints them vividly for who they really are, those that have fallen into the dark crevice of misfortune for one reason or another. Her Louisiana drawl has a hard edge to it that pulls you in to each song and the story it illuminates.
Mary explores the many depths of nearly every human foible from alcoholism, drug addiction, adultery, abandonment, abuse, and the inability to form and sustain lasting relationships. She doesn't just describe them, she places you in their shadow and finally says hey "...we got damn good reasons for our sins." I've read other reviews of her music that say her stories don't offer the eventuality of hope for her subjects as most any good story would. I don't totally agree with that point of view as she does offer the hope that understanding always brings, as well as her own rise to success out of some of the same circumstances.
This CD, although new, took me back many years to Dylan's Desire album. Possibly it's the patchwork of slightly different treatments of each song, the depth of focus obviously invested in each subject, or the sweet fiddle of Darcie Deaville mournfully punctuating songs in all the right places ala Scarlett Rivera's performance on Desire. Or the way it makes me care about the plight of the people caught up in the sugar cane industry the way Dylan made me care about Rueben "Hurricane" Carter.
Along with the incredible songwriting skills of Mary, Crit Harmon, and Catie Curtis, Gurf Morlix in his role as producer and accompanying musician, seem to be what makes this as strong a collection as it is. It offers something for everyone from the down and dirty honky-tonk sound of After You're Gone to the subtle calypso-like notes of the steel drums on The Ledge and Christmas in Paradise and the harder rock/blues elements of Walk Through The Fire. Besides Darcie Deaville, other contributions include those of Slaid Cleaves, Rich Brotherton, and Peter Rowan.
There aren't any uplifting, happily-ever-afters offered in the lyrics or Mary's "Country Noir" style, but the incredible musicianship of all involved have made it a CD I can't seem to stop listening to.
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