Written by James Killen
I’ve been lying in wait for Mary Gauthier to grace Houston’s stages for a while now. I have missed a couple of opportunities, but on the first of June the stars aligned and I found myself at a table in The Duck to catch a performance by one of the most compelling songwriters of our time. Gauthier has a talent of getting to the gritty heart of a subject in her lyrics, no passing Go, no collecting $200. What I had not known about Mary, was the way in which she takes charge of a room and guides the listener’s experience through the journey that she has planned.
Ms. Gauthier immediately established common ground with the audience by stating “It’s hot!” which everyone could relate to, before introducing her first song, “I Drink”. She solicited requests starting at the second number and quickly formed her set list going forward, choosing “How You Learn to Live Alone” to start. She followed with “Between Daylight and Dark” which she wrote with Fred Eaglesmith and she introduced the song with a detailed recounting of Eaglesmith’s writing method. Every song had a story, like “Last of the Hobo Kings” and the tale of the gathering of hobos, before railyards were fenced in with razor wire and box cars were locked.
Starting with the fifth number Mary introduced her latest CD which came from the SongwritingWith:Soldiers organization, led by Darden Smith with contributions from Mary Gauthier, Amy Speace, Radney Foster, Greg Trooper, Marshall Crenshaw, Bonnie Bishop, Will Kimbrough and a host of other songwriters. These artists donated their time to work with soldiers that were trying to fit back into their lives stateside after the trauma of the battlefields. The concept is to put their feelings into words, words into lyrics and lyrics to music in a therapeutic effort to express what they have so long suppressed. Mary collected eleven of the songs that she had collaborated on and has put it out as “Rifles and Rosary Beads”.
The fifth song was the title track to that record, followed by “Bullet Holes in the Sky”, “Still on the Ride” and “Stronger Together” which was written in collaboration with the spouses of service men and women, also suffering from trauma while supporting their military husbands and wives.
As Ms. Gauthier concluded her “Rifles and Rosary Beads” segment of the show, she introduced a guest performer, up and coming Austin artist, Jaimee Harris. I have been hearing about Jaimee from some of the other singer-songwriters and venue hosts that I have talked with lately, but have not had the chance to catch one of her shows. I was thoroughly blown away with the maturity of her voice and the genius of her lyrics as well as the tasteful guitar work. She performed two numbers that seemed to reach deep into the darkness and bring the feelings out into the light in a most beautiful way, all with a sweet country tremolo voice.
Jaimee remained on stage singing back up as Mary closed the show with “Another Train” and “Mercy Now”. Being the early show in McGonigel’s two show weekend schedule, there was no time to wrangle an encore from the fine lady performers. Just the same, Ms. Gauthier seemed able to squeeze a whole lot of entertainment and information into a short time. So much talent oozed from that show that I had my batteries charged for the next couple of days.
I was so inspired that I have already ordered my tickets to see Jaimee Harris with Bonnie Whitmore on July 6th, Mary Gauthier on the “Three women and the truth” tour on September 20th and Darden Smith on September 27th, all appearing at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. There’s lots of good stuff coming up over there. Be sure to check the schedule.