836 N. Russell St. / Portland, OR, 97227
Monday, March 19, 2018
White Eagle Saloon & Hotel - White Eagle Saloon
$23 in advance, $25 day of show
21 and over
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7 p.m.$23 in advance, $25 day of show21 and over
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - 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 (and 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 #3 Record of the Year but the LA Times), and her
songs have been praised by both Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and recorded by Jimmy
Buffet, Blake Shelton and many others, 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 at a
concert at the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas, outside
"People have been asking for
a live CD for a long time and I just knew that I wasn't ready yet," admits
Gauthier. "It took 10 years of trench work. Of bein' out there, banging my head
against all the things an artist has to bang against. Indifference. Poor
attendence. Situations that are over your head. Every night, curve ball, curve
ball, curve ball. But stagecraft cannot be taught. You have to be onstage to
learn it. So after 10 years of doin' it, I got good at it."
native-turned-Nashville resident Gauthier (it's French; pronounced Go-SHAY) is
not bragging, just explaining, in that practical way of hers. It's the same way
she discusses experiences that led to some of the extraordinary songs she
performs on the album. Renowned songs, such as "I Drink," "Drag Queens in
Limousines" and "Karla Faye" - which addresses the famous fate of that
convicted killer, but starts out with lines that undoubtedly reference their
author as well: A little girl lost, her world full of pain. He said it feels
good, she gave him her vein.
Then there's "Blood on
Blood," from her last release, 2010's The Foundling, which plumbs the
particular hell of children given up to closed adoption. With a
cinematographer's eye and a lyrical economy that suggests far more than her 15
years of songwriting experience, she chronicles an always-present sense of
rejection and rootlessness, the nagging "whys" and "what ifs," the endless
search of every face for a possible resemblance. I don't know who I am I don't
know who I'm not/I don't know my name I can't find my place, she sings, her
voice rising from a whisper to a wail. She's not just offering a vein here,
she's cutting several wide open. Like all of her songs, "Blood on Blood" takes
on even more power when performed live.
"As a songwriter, I'm always
trying to go to the deepest possible place inside of me. Past the naval-gazing,
past the self-conscious, to get to that 'we,'" Gauthier explains. "'Cause deep
inside of all of us is the universal. And that is an artist's job, to transcend
the self. ... I'm in there, but then hopefully, it goes past that and it hits
something far, far bigger and more important than me. That's what I'm aimin'
for every time I write."
She's proud that The
Foundling opened the floodgates for thousands of fellow orphans who had never
heard anyone articulate their pain with so much insight. Gauthier reports
therapists are now using the album to better understand the adoptee experience.
It's also resulted in several reunions between children and their birth parents
- though Gauthier's birth mother declined that option after Gauthier made
contact five years ago. And she understands that decision, even if she'll never
have the full closure she sought.
Sometimes, life just goes
that way - particularly for the outsiders with whom Gauthier has always
identified most. They populate Live at Blue Rock, which also contains covers of
three songs by fellow poet/philosopher (and recent "Tin Can Caravan" tour
leader) Fred Eaglesmith, another master at illuminating the sympathetic sides
of characters society is not used to regarding kindly, if at all.
"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 percussive adornment. But she's experimenting with
different configurations all the time, which means the songs take on new
"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.
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