Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mary Gauthier -- Mercy Now

Her name is pronounced "go-shay" and her "Mercy Now" CD is absolutely stunning in its direct assault into the unknowns of life. She's a "what if" person that likes to play with possibilities and she's lived a harsh life filled with enough dark paths and philosophical fumblings to fill a concert hall.

I connected with her music at once. Maybe it's because I've known darkness and despair long enough to develop my own musings about the randomness of fair and unfair. Mary has a super-talented ability to retain gut-wrenching grittiness while exploring the humor in it all. Her lyrics juxtapose good and bad, light and dark, all the while bathing them inside of her deep throaty interpretations. You get the sense that she's just a bystander watching life go by in some dark alley but her stage banter corrects that assessment quickly. These are lyrics written by a woman who's been there and back again.

Imagine Lucinda Williams touched by Patti Smith and honed by John Prine and Neil Young and you may just begin to sense what a gift Mary Gauthier has for storytelling behind the acoustic guitar. Not only was I blown away by her songs but her road diary is amazing to read. It's a shame she hasn't kept that going -- it really gets inside of road life in a way I've never experienced before.

"Mercy Now" is her fourth effort. She started writing at age 35. That was 10 years ago and all of her albums have created a stir among the Boston crowd where she began and then, Nashville, where she now resides. She tours endlessly so you have a good shot of getting to see her live show which is really something to behold.

She saunters onto the stage in ragged blue jeans with holes in them, an old suede fringed jacket, and silver bangles and says "Hi Y'all ... thanks for coming out," in a deep throaty drawl earned by drinking loads of whiskey and smoking packs of cigarettes that shook me back to my days exploring the Big Easy. You won't hear the romping New Orleans sounds of Buckwheat Zydeco; instead you'll hear the underbelly of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina sung by a simple woman in a simple outfit with simply amazing grace.

Throughout the catcalls of songs the audience wanted to hear and hoots of appreciation, Mary stands calmy; sometimes amused and others downright amazed at how much her fans know about her music. I was certain we'd get an "aw shucks" at some point in the show but that never happened (at least verbally although her facial expressions spoke volumes).

She told tales of a vacation in the Keys of Florida that helped her pen "Christmas in Paradise" and childhood memories living with an alcoholic father that created "I Drink." She's got a story for every song and sometimes she shares that background in her live shows. "Wheel Inside a Wheel," for instance, was written for her dear friend, Dave Carter who passed away in July 2002. The stand out song on the CD is the title song which Mary wrote following the events of September 11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In "Mercy Now," she sings,

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit
That's going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful
Who follow them down
I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now

Mary Gauthier is definitely an artist to watch and her incredible sound can be found on her website at


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