Mary Gauthier

We first cottoned onto Mary Gauthier back in 2001. She had just released her classic Drag Queens in Limousines and, based on the intensity and pure craftsmanship of the songs, we immediately booked the unknown singer-songwriter for the Thirsty Ear Festival. She stole the show. Since then the Louisiana native has recorded, toured, and written with the best songwriters (Willie Nelson and Guy Clark among them), and recorded a string of poetic, highly acclaimed discs. Her most recent album, Trouble And Love, one of her strongest records to date (that’s saying a lot), came out in June.

Gauthier’s songs are idiosyncratic, funny, and painfully personal–not so much written as harvested by Gauthier. The call to write first came to her a long time ago. Her life to that point had led her to extremes, plenty of negatives and a few brilliant bright spots. An adopted child, who became a teenage runaway, she found her first shelter among addicts and drag queens. Eventually she achieved renown as a chef even while balancing the running of her restaurant with the demands of addiction to heroin. An escalating addiction, and a subsequent arrest, led her into sobriety. All that was rehearsal for what to follow, when she wrote her first song in her mid-thirties.

These many years later, Trouble and Love flows from an especially dark period. “When you’re in the amount of grief I was in, it’s an altered state,” she explains. “Life is not that. You go through that. We human beings have this built-in healing mechanism that’s always pushing us toward life. I didn’t want to write just darkness, because that’s not the truth. I had to write through the darkness to get to the truth. Writing helped me back onto my feet again. This record is about getting to a new normal. It’s a transformation record.”

The heart of that transformation is love. “For me, love has been a real challenge,” she admits. “Attachment has been a challenge. This record is about losing an attachment I actually made. The loss of it was devastating because I hadn’t fully attached before to anyone. The good news is that I can. The even better news is that I can, and I can lose, and live. Not only do I live, but I’ve got a strength that I never had before.”

Trouble and Love would fall or rise on the question of whether it crystalizes Gauthier’s experience and conveys it to those who want to feel it, as if the poetry of her lyric can mirror and illuminate what they too have gone through. To help make this happen, she invited a small group of singers and musicians into Nashville’s Skaggs Place Studio, each one chosen because of his or her ability to find the heart of the song. No one was given a lead sheet or an advance demo or even headphones. The backup vocals were invented on the spot. The microphones were vintage, and the songs were cut live, to tape. Everyone stood together in the room, playing to what they heard in the lyric as well as from what was going on in the moment.

“This record is a story. It’s about trust and faith and believing that there’s a plan and a flow. And the flow is where the good stuff is because there’s wisdom in the flow. At the core, we’re all cut from the same cloth– the same dreams, the same brokenness, the same desire for companionship and family and home. Yeah, we all have that. And if I don’t go deep enough into that, it’s a problem. There’s no such thing as going too deep.”

Friday, August 15 at 7:30 pm
$22 advance, $25 door General Admission. Tickets 800-838-3006 or BrownPaperTickets.com
Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE, Albuquerque, NM.  (Two blocks south of Central.)

Big thanks to Rick & Gail Thaler for supporting Mary’s performance.