Mary Gauthier Pulls Into the Station With Personal Tunes
Mary Gauthier's wry sense of humor brought so much good cheer to the audience gathered on September 9 at Nashville's historic Station Inn, it was as if a pressure valve had released pent-up tension leaving jubilation behind.
Not that those at the Americana Music Festival take themselves overly seriously, but Mary's showcase did almost immediately follow the festival's star-studded awards ceremony that had everyone from Dierks Bentley to the Avett Brothers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jack White and Robert Plant as presenters, performers and recipients at the Ryman Auditorium event.
"I won a few awards in this business," Mary told the crowd. "Two to be exact. One was an Americana Award. The other, well, you are looking at the gay country artist of the year ... before me, nobody was stupid enough to do it."
As the audience happily clapped and cheered, Mary continued: "Mama wasn't quite sure what to do with that one. Before you adopt anyone, think about it. You might get me."
Those who don't understand the point need only listen to the songs on Mary's latest album 'The Foundling.' After facing down demon addictions and going on to write her first song at age 35, Mary moved to Nashville five years later and found critical success with her 1997 debut album, 'Dixie Kitchen.' Her breakthrough album 'Mercy Now' was released in 2005 and still holds a place in many fans' hearts as evidenced by the calls for the song of the same name.
"I knew it was a late start but thought I could pull it off when I was 35," Mary tells The Boot about her career. "As I got sober and was able to read books and as my language skills opened, I moved more toward songs as a way of expressing myself."
That's why Mary could write so openly about the heartbreak she felt when, at age 45, she found her birth mother who again rejected her, setting off events that led to Mary writing the songs of abandonment, loneliness and despair and finally emerging somewhat philosophical.
"I have got my story. Adoptees rarely get our stories," she says. "There is some power in going in and doing this terrifying work and being able to say 'You know what? I have the right to ask these questions.' It's taboo. You're not supposed to ask. But you have a right to know."
And to tell what you know, of course, about your life. That's just what Mary did during her Station Inn set, singing fan favorites including "For Rose," "I Drink" and 'Drag Queens in Limousines.' Perhaps the song that received the most heartfelt cheers, though, was 'Last of the Hobo Kings,' which Mary wrote after reading a New York Times obituary about Steam Train Maury who held the king of the hobos title longer than anyone else. Mary delivered the lyrics, "he knew how his nation's doing by the length of a sidewalk cigarette butt/born with an aching wanderlust/Embedded in his gut," almost as if they were about the songwriter herself. Little wonder the filled-to-capacity crowd gave her a long, hearty standing ovation.
Mary's next show is September 10 in Austin, Texas. For a complete list of dates and cities, check here.