Live best way to enjoy Mary Gauthier

Story by Linda East Brady
(Standard-Examiner)
Mon, Jan 7, 2013
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Mary Gauthier

“Live at Blue Rock”

With her 50th year, confessional singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier (Go-shay) delivers her first live album. It might seem late in life for that milestone, yet Gauthier, who had some hard-lived younger years, only started recording at age 35.

Her patience has paid off, waiting until now to do this live album. She has, over the years, built a fine catalog to draw from for this solid live CD. And with the intimate, immediate and often harrowing nature of her songs, live turns out to be the best way to enjoy Gauthier’s work.

Born in New Orleans to an unknown father and to a mother who gave her up, Gauthier was raised by her adoptive parents in Thibodaux, La. She struck out on her own at age 15, wrestling with substance abuse and self-worth issues for many years. Gauthier found both sobriety and songwriting in 1990, with song subjects more often than not made up of the lives and places she came to know along her own rocky path to musical success.

The CD was recorded at Blue Rock Artists Ranch in Wimberly, Texas (in the Hill Country outside Austin), with Tania Elizabeth on fiddle, Mike Meadows on percussion, and Patrick Granado mixing and mastering the final, sweet-sounding disc. The two backup musicians work well with Gauthier here, lending a moody, introspective groove to the songs.

Three of the songs included in the package were penned by Fred Eaglesmith. Those three covers, “Your Sister Cried,” “Cigarette Machine” and “The Rocket,” all certainly fit Gauthier’s mood and tone. The balancing eight tunes in the package were written (or co-written with Crit Harmon) by Gauthier.

Her songs’ subjects might not be for everyone, as they reveal, if not relish, the fringier aspects of life. She tells true tales of drag queens and street addicts, of field workers and misfits. For example, one song, “Karla Faye,” is about Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed in Texas for killing her customers — the rarest of the rare, a female serial killer.

New Orleans and its unique characters, with Mardi Gras Indians and others colorful beings unique to the Crescent City, make appearances in the seven-minute driving finale, “Wheel Inside the Wheel.”

A fan-favorite atmospheric song of place is “Sugar Cane,” about life alongside the burning cane fields of the town she was raised in. It talks not of the wealthy landowners of the area, but of the workers who make their living in those fields, breathing the soot: “From Thibodaux to Raceland there’s fire in the fields/ All the way up the bayou from Lafourche to Iberville/ Dirty air, dirty laundry, dirty money, dirty rain/ A dirty dark at daybreak burning the sugar cane.”

If you already count yourself a Gauthier fan, your favorites are likely included within this live CD. If you are unfamiliar with her work, this will be a good introduction to Gauthier, as it covers a wide range of her material. She is fearless and well worth your time.

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