It is almost two years to the day since Mary Gauthier last appeared on these shores and tonight she takes the stage with no announcement or fanfare; just her winsome smile and a wave to the enthusiastic audience.
She is accompanied by Michele Gazich on violins and later in the set, by support act Ben Glover, who has been co-writing with Mary of late. The next 90 minutes is filled with superb musical interplay and an atmosphere that comes wrapped in its own time capsule of heart-felt stories and witty insights.
Playing songs from her latest release, Trouble & Love, the tales of a broken relationship ring true for this special artist who has the gift of relating the personal into a universal truth we can all relate to.
Starting with new song, False From True and following with Between the Daylight and the Dark, as Mary settled into her performance, we are treated to a particularly poignant version of Cigarette Machine, a Fred Eaglesmith song which tracks a lost relationship and haunted memory of a lover who cannot move on.
When A Woman Grows Cold from the new release follows and at this point Mary starts chatting with the audience in what will turn out to be a special night of banter and wry observations on everything from the Marriage Referendum to stories of fans after gigs at the merchandise table and lots of stories from the road in-between.
How You Learn To Live Alone follows with an interesting peek into the TV series Nashville, which features this song in its entirety in Episode 3 of Season 3. Mary got to do the whole Grand Ole Oprey thing for real and then appeared at the simulated version of the performance both on the same night – talk about karma…!
Her classic song I Drink is received with great warmth and she then follows up with two songs that have been written as part of a song-writing weekend with American war veterans recounting their experiences in battle zones into songs to assist with the process of healing. Bullet Holes and Rifles & Rosary Beads will form part of a new recording project based around these weekend workshops and to be released at a future date. The songs were poignant and very moving in the performance and reflect the words of the soldier’s personal stories.
The Last of the Hobo Kings is a fine tale of free spirits that rode the box-cars but have now been defeated by rules and regulations on the great railways of America. The Hobo convention in Britt, Iowa ever year is also given honourable mention.
The last two songs of the evening are Another Train from the new release and an encore of Mercy Now which is very apt given all the political tension in our city at this time.
We are given an insight into her creative muse when Mary talks of song-writing coming from a place of struggle and confusion. When things are going good she does not try to capture the experience and when she says that songs are what feelings sound like, we all get that lightbulb moment and are lifted by the connection.
In the company of this literate, mature song-writer who champions the lost souls, the marginalized and the voiceless in a way that displays a compassion and dignity; one feels a profound sense of empathy with everyman.
This is the gift that Mary Gauthier brings with her troubadour quest – to find the magic in the most tragic of circumstances and to lift the human condition to a better place.
Review by Paul McGee Photography by Ronnie Norton