On previous albums, Mary Gauthier's signature as a songwriter has been a brutal honesty balanced by rough-hewn tenderness. Nowhere is that more true than on Trouble & Love, a song cycle that journeys through devastating heartbreak and its attendant states: grief, anger, accountability, acceptance, and what lies beyond. She assembled her road band and an all-star cast of singers, co-writers, and players, including Beth Nielsen Chapman, the McCrary Sisters, Viktor Krauss, Darrell Scott, and Ashley Cleveland.
Gauthier’s seventh album may include songs co-written with country straight-shooters Beth Nielsen Chapman and Gretchen Peters, but don’t be fooled into thinking she’s sliding her feet under any kind of mainstream table. The New Orleans 50- something, who didn’t start making records until her late 30s, remains doggedly leftfield, with a skewered worldview on these astonishing eight songs. As on previous outings, Gauthier displays a curious but compelling modus operandi, which has seen the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits praise her as a major talent, and has attracted covers of her songs from far beyond the worlds of folk and country (Candi Staton, Boy George).
“Who likes to think about their pain?” Mary Gauthier observed in “Sideshow,” a rollicking standout from her 2010 autobiographical outpouring The Foundling. Her newest release, Trouble & Love, is all about looking pain straight in the eye. Gauthier’s fans might expect her unvarnished voice to lead them to defiant statements about a myriad of things that can beat you down – they can do this or that to me, or I can do this to myself, but I’m still standing – and Trouble & Love offers that, in a way.
Mary Gauthier does not make dinner party music. Call her style uneasy listening, as her signature is deep exploration of personal pain. Her previous studio record, 2010's The Foundling, was based on her experiences as an adoptee, while Trouble & Love is described by Gauthier as "a record I wrote with a broken heart." Its songs brim with sadness, anger, melancholy and just a tinge of hope.
In a recent interview, Mary Gauthier said that she wrote 35-40 new songs, but she only recorded eight of them for her latest release. She likes to keep things tight, which she successfully does on Trouble & Love. Gauthier compresses what happens when a relationship ends, the pain and the eventual healing, into less than 40 minutes of heartfelt intensity.
Mary Gauthier Trouble & Love (In the Black) The musical poetry of Louisiana native Mary Gauthier hews closely to her own turmoil and struggle – from orphan, runaway, and jailed drug addict to celebrated chef and lauded songwriter – in narratives inhabiting the outskirts among the marginalized with steeled compassion and understanding. Like 2010's The Foundling, this seventh studio LP draws marrow from Gauthier's bones, cauterizing the wounds of a relationship into one of the most devastating breakup albums of all time. "Scorched earth will not burn," she drawls while surveying the damage on opener "When a Woman Goes Cold," and the eight songs that follow unfold as stoically as they are brutal.
Based on previous experience, you wouldn’t exactly expect Mary Gauthier to be the life of the party. Given her tangled persona, she’d likely spend the entire evening in a corner brooding and letting fly on whatever travails she happened to have recently encountered. That at least is the way it’s been throughout most of her previously recorded catalogue.