On Saturday, May 6, iconic singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier comes to the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM) in a performance for Flying Cat Music. The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $23 or $20 with reservations. For information or reservations, email email@example.com or call 845-688-9453.
The Associated Press calls Mary Gauthier one of the best songwriters of her generation and many others agree. “Drag Queens in Limousines,” off of Gauthier’s second CD of the same name, won best Folk/Singer-Songwriter Song at the first Annual Independent Music Awards in 1999. Her third album, 2002’s Filth and Fire, was named #1 Best Independent CD of the year by Jon Pareles of the New York Times. Her 2005 release, Mercy Now, was ranked the sixth best record of the decade by No Depression Magazine. That same year, the Americana Music Association named Gauthier New Artist of the Year. Mary’s most recent release, Trouble And Love, was included in Rolling Stone’s feature “The 26 Albums of 2014 You Probably Didn’t But Really Should Hear.”
Mary Gauthier’s songs have also been used in several TV shows, including Nashville on ABC, Masterpiece Theatre’s Case Histories, Showtime’s Banshee, and HBO’s Injustice; and recorded by numerous artists, including Jimmy Buffett, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, and Bettye Lavett. She is held in high standing by the Alt Country scene and has made multiple appearances at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s no wonder that The Wall Street Journal observed, “Mary Gauthier has become one of Americana music’s most admired artists.” The Los Angeles Times says, “…her razor-sharp eye for detail and her commitment to unsentimental self-reflection puts her in a class with greats such as Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and yes, Bob Dylan.”
There is something palpably immediate about Mary Gauthier’s songs. They avoid all detours. Gauthier can find the meaning in a broken pane of glass, and, when she does, you’ll see it too. She strips the veneer off of ordinary moments and leaves the splinters exposed. American Songwriter Magazine says of her, “Gauthier rejects mainstream entertainment values, the showy mastery, perkiness and polish that aim at providing musical diversion and courting mass popularity. Hers is a confrontational art, especially in a live setting. She directs attention to the unsettling side of contemporary American society.”
In discussing her work, NPR Music noted, “To be affected by these songs, you don’t have to know anything of Gauthier’s backstory (Louisiana orphan addict chef turned sober troubadour), the respect she commands across gender lines in the Americana scene, or the heavyweight catalog she’s built out of unflinching introspection and Southern Gothic-shaded storytelling.” The L.A. Weekly expands on the point, writing, “Gauthier’s skill in balancing a profoundly personal tale with classic underpinnings ultimately hints at the evocative idea that all our lives are full of events that touch on the mythic and the timeless.”
Mary puts it more simply herself, saying, “There’s no such thing as going too deep.” Gauthier once told an interviewer for Nashville Scene, “The beauty of grief, is that it’s transformative, and at the end of grieving, we’re different people — oftentimes different in a way that’s good.” Mary Gauthier’s lyrics can be penetrating, but seldom are they harsh. Ultimately they turn forgiving, as captured by these verses from her classic song, “Mercy”:
My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom
He’s shackled to his fears and doubts
The pain that he lives in is
Almost more than living will allow
I love my bother, and he could use some mercy now…
Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now.
Gauthier’s music isn’t dark, it’s real. Real in a gritty sense; real like Johnny Cash stayed real from the bottom to the top, with a similar thread of redemption running through many of her stories, as well as her life. On her website Mary Gauthier described the back story to one of her must requested compositions:
“Writing ‘I Drink’ required a perspective that an active alcoholic is not capable of, and a non-alcoholic cannot fully comprehend. I needed to go through what I went through to write it, and today I would not change a thing even if I could because for me, inside the curse — lives the blessing. The wisdom, vision and compassion that comes from taking a stroll to hell and back cannot be obtained any other way.”
Mary Gauthier will be accompanied at the Empire State Railway Museum by Michele Gazich, an Italian violinist of international renown. In addition to numerous concert appearances, Gazich has performed on over fifty albums, playing with artists such as Eric Andersen, Tom Russell, John Hammond, Victoria Williams, Michelle Shocked, Mark Olson, and, of course, Mary Gauthier.