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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. - LA WEEKLY
In conversation and in public, Mary Gauthier comes off as a practical, no-nonsense woman. Stoic, even. Which wouldn’t seem unusual, except for the fact that her songs carry so much emotional punch, they can leave you staggering. She has a way of burrowing into that hole so many of us carry inside our souls, and emerging with universal truths that show we aren’t so alone after all.
Gauthier knows where our exposed nerve endings lie because she’s probed her own so deeply, finally learning to unlock the fear and loneliness that controlled her escape-seeking trajectory for so long before songwriting — and the sobriety that drew it forth at age 35 — gave her a steadier flight path.
But even though her six albums have received countless accolades (2005’s Mercy Now earned her the Americana Music Association’s New/Emerging Artist of the Year title, and 2011’s The Foundling was named the No. 3 Record of the Year by the L.A. Times), Gauthier felt she needed to rack up her pilot hours, so to speak, before she could hit another major milestone: recording a live album. When she was ready, she captured Live at Blue Rock (In the Black Records) at a concert at the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas, outside of Austin.
I find the stories I want to tell are the stories of characters who may or may not make it, says Gauthier. Though she’s no longer dangling on that precipice, she adds,
I believe in redemption. I needed redemption; I continue to need redemption. Luckily, she sometimes finds it onstage, in front of an audience. And just as audiences change from night to night, so do her accompanists. When Live at Blue Rock was recorded, she had fiddle and percussion adornment. But she’s experimenting with different configurations all the time, which means the songs also take on new identities nightly.
They’re living things, Gauthier says of her work.
You record ’em one way, but that’s just the way you played it that day. Some words change, the tempo changes. It has to go with the flow of the room and the flow of the night. Gauthier, a teen runaway who attended college in Louisiana and operated a Cajun restaurant in Boston before getting sober, long ago learned how to go with the flow. And to be patient. Because it takes time to get good enough to wing it.