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Mercy Now
     

Mercy Now

4.5 2
by Mary Gauthier
 
Say this much for singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier: She talks it like she walked it. Once addicted to drugs and alcohol, Gauthier has emerged with a hard-edged optimism about the future. Producer Gurf Morlix is the ideal mate for Gauthier; his minimalist soundscapes, sculpted by a largely acoustic band, are supplemented by the odd banjo,

Overview

Say this much for singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier: She talks it like she walked it. Once addicted to drugs and alcohol, Gauthier has emerged with a hard-edged optimism about the future. Producer Gurf Morlix is the ideal mate for Gauthier; his minimalist soundscapes, sculpted by a largely acoustic band, are supplemented by the odd banjo, harmonica, cello, pedal steel, fiddle, viola, or B3 -- rootsy configurations that build atmospheric environments à la Tom Waits or the Cowboy Junkies. Like the Junkies' Margo Timmins, Gauthier rarely sings in the classical sense. Rather, she emotes, speaks, chants, and whispers her way through the dark and the light of her texts. Her weathered, weary recitation on "Falling Out of Love," which is set in a dive hotel, is a positively chilling evocation of lonely desperation, with her ruminations set to eerie, Daniel Lanois–like electric guitar punctuations, a thumping drum, and moaning harmonica lines. The ennui of life inside the bottle gets a folksy treatment in "I Drink," via fingerpicked acoustic guitar, a sweet pedal steel, and Ian McLagan's elegant B3 chording; Gauthier's Lucinda-style drawl makes it all seem so cozy, until the dead-end nature of the confessions kicks in. That said, she can do a honky-tonker proud, as she proves on her languorous interpretation of Harland Howard's beautiful tear-jerker "Just Say She's a Rhymer." Gauthier may not believe she's achieved a state of grace -- that doesn't sound like her -- but she understands the quality of mercy known only to those who have experienced none at all.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Since her second offering, the self-issued Drag Queens in Limousines in 1999, and continuing through the stellar Filth & Fire in 2002, Texas singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier has quietly and consistently raised the aesthetic bar for herself. She has been favorably (and accurately) compared to Townes Van Zandt for her literate American gothic songs about wasted lives, desolate characters who roam the highways like ghosts, shattered dreams, and frustrated expectations. But Gauthier never exploits her characters; she views them with a piercing tenderness and empathy, painting them with dignity and humanity. On Mercy Now, Gauthier digs a little deeper; she comes down on the side of the song itself. The protagonists whose tales she relates are given rich musical voices, adding depth, dimension, and flesh and blood as related by her keen-eyed observations, unflinching poetic language, and willingness to be subtle and not intrude. Her razor-wire, weatherbeaten, loving kindness digs deep as it pleads for release on "Falling Out of Love," which opens the record. With her acoustic guitar in minor mode, a deep, lonesome harmonica, hollow, sparse percussion, and producer Gurf Morlix's trademark slow-wrangle slide, she sings and even becomes the voice of the broken-hearted blues. There is no sentimentality in her view, just the taut edginess that is so wearying and anxious about trying to get past the addiction to a memory seared with every breath. On the title track, Gauthier's guitar and voice offer a gritty, moving meditation on compassion, invoking mercy for all those who suffer, from family to church and country to those who are nameless and faceless. There is nothing facile in Gauthier's words, nothing remotely trite or ordinary about the weariness in the grain of her voice, as Brian Standefer's cello and Morlix's lap steel fill the center and carry the message to the heavens humbly, slowly, purposefully. "Wheel Inside the Wheel," written for the late Dave Carter, is a spooky rolling and choogling banjo/guitar extravaganza. It features characters from Gauthier's New Orleans Mardis Gras: Louis Armstrong, Marie Laveau, the Krewes, etc. -- all of them metaphors for the transmigration of souls. Her cover of Harlan Howard's "Just Say She's a Rhymer" is as back porch as it gets, dressed in fiddle, steel, strummed six-strings, and plodding bass. Her delivery comes out of time and space and rests fully in this moment. Gauthier inhabits the song as if it were her own. The set closes with the punchy, electric "It Ain't the Wind, It's the Rain." A Hammond B-3 carries the tune from underneath as stinging guitars, throbbing basslines, and Gauthier's clear, prophetic voice rings over it all. What a finish; what a record. Mercy Now cuts deep into the heart -- it showcases not only Gauthier's prowess with the poetry and craft of song, but her humility and wisdom as she digs further into its chamber of secrets.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/15/2005
Label:
Lost Highway
UPC:
0602498641682
catalogNumber:
000357002
Rank:
60739

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mary Gauthier   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Ian McLagan   Hammond Organ,Hammond B3
Ray Bonneville   Harmonica
Rich Brotherton   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo
Patty Griffin   Background Vocals
Gurf Morlix   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Percussion,Pedal Steel Guitar,Bass Guitar,Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Mandocello,Octofone,Lap Steel Guitar
Paul Mills   Vocals
Rick Richards   Drums
Brian Standefer   Cello
Eamon McLoughlin   Fiddle,Viola
Brian Standeford   Cello

Technical Credits

Craig Allen   Art Direction
Harlan Howard   Composer
Gurf Morlix   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Fred Eaglesmith   Composer
Tom Damphier   Composer
Mary Gauthier   Composer
Crit Harmon   Composer
Dale Keys   Composer

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Mercy Now 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful stories of Louisiana/the South with the title track as a standout. Get the Vinyl, it sounds excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago