Published Jun 06, 2014Mary 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. A genuine Americana hero, Gauthier is at the top of her game here, lyrically and vocally. There is clarity, compassion and emotional gravitas in her world-weary yet resonant voice, one oft compared to that of fellow Southerner Lucinda Williams.
She recruited elite Nashville players for a recording session that stressed spontaneity, and the live-to-tape approach pays off in the album's aural warmth. The guitar work of Guthrie Trapp especially impresses, while background vocals from the likes of Darrell Scott, Beth Nielsen Chapman and the McCrary Sisters add depth. Chapman is one of the ace songwriters she collaborates with here, with Gretchen Peters, Irishman Ben Glover and Canadian Scott Nolan also contributing effectively.
The album kicks off with stone cold killer cut "When A Woman Goes Cold," a Gauthier-Peters co-write that's arguably one of the best songs ever written from the perspective of a woman scorned. There is no filler here amongst the eight tunes, and the album's emotional journey moves into resignation, acceptance and a sense of moving on with the three funereally paced but powerful closing numbers.
"In the end we just did the best we could," sings Gauthier on "Walking Each Other Home," seguing into "How You Learn To Live Alone" and the closing "Another Train" ("I'm moving on through the pain"). One could perhaps have wished for at least one uptempo number, but that might well have marred the emotional integrity of the album. The name of Gauthier's new Canadian label is appropriate. She's a straight shooter, and Trouble & Love hits right to the heart.
Read about the process behind Gauthier's new album here. (Six Shooter)