Mary Gauthier’s ‘breakthrough’ album, Mercy Now (2005) was continuously “discovered” and lauded for the two years following its release, earning mentions on a score of year-end “best of” lists, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and No Depression.
Since then she has given us Between Daylight and Dark (2007), The Foundling (2010) and now Trouble & Love. (There was a live album Live At Blue Rock in betwixt).
I remember seeing her at an in-store (Basement Discs Melbourne Australia) in March 2010 just before The Foundling’s release and I can still feel the raw emotion of her songs.
So, this is Gauthier’s first studio album in four years and only her third in seven years – this is usually a sign of an artist that imposes a high bar on her muse and only releases material when it’s good and ready. Is the new release a worthy addition to the high standard canon from this well-regarded performer? Has it been worth the wait. The answer is a bell-ringing YES!
Trouble & Love is for me an undeniable treasure – eight songs of beauty and with a dagger-like clarity on the human condition in its many guises.
“When A Woman Goes Cold” (the title says it all) prefaces the group of songs with an observation on the outcome here – a woman with an unflinching lack of passion and compassion, a terrible and uneasy narrative. “False From True” …can’t tell the difference after loving you. In the title track, ‘Desk clerk don’t look up when I walk by no more’, the imagery so vivid and narrative so compelling as you hear of “twisted steel, sirens and blood”. I am reminded of the poeticism of the great Lucinda Williams as I tune in again and again.
The next song is a welcome refresh (in tone if not in content). “Oh Soul” is a gospel-infused duet with Darrell Scott bending a perfect vocal collaborative (They have worked together previously). “Worthy” is an introspective epic of sorts about a lifetime of lacking self belief and to where this leads. “Walking Each Other Home” is about a sense of community rising above self-interest. “How You Learn To Live Alone” has beautiful guitar work by Guthrie Trapp (which is a feature throughout the collection). “Another Train” is the closer and the pinnacle for me. It’s a slow ballad with a soulful core that’s hard to forget. The playing, production and arrangements are perfectly weighted. A joy to experience over and over.
Then it’s over. Hard to work out what to listen to next, actually, such is its vice-like grip.
Trouble & Love was co-produced by Gauthier with Patrick Granado, recorded in Ricky Skaggs’ studio outside Nashville and features the support of the aforementioned Scott, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Ashley Cleveland. One song, “How You Learn To Live Alone”, co-written with Gretchen Peters, was chosen for Season 2 of the eminently watchable TV show Nashville. On the record, the legendary Duane Eddy (who I witnessed receiving an Americana Life-Time Achievement Award last year) plays guitar on this song. After years of measured success in the world of record deals and major labels, Gauthier has now taken the reins to her business. “I am now happily and successfully working with my own team outside of the major label model,” she says, “Taking back and claiming my power is the underlying theme of this project, and of my life.”
Released in Australia on Proper Music
Thanks to Planet Company