(Razor & Tie)
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2010, Volume 17, #7
Written by John Metzger
Mon July 26, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
The corporatization of popular culture has made it possible for artists to succeed without sharing their pain and suffering with the world. Apparently, though, no one informed Mary Gauthier that she had another option. With albums like Drag Queens in Limousines and Filth & Fire, she has built a career around the concept of exploring the dimly lit corridors of society, where death row inmates frequently brush past the inhabitants of seedy motels. Her tales are gritty and real, and the music with which she surrounds her words serves mostly to magnify the bleakness of her universe.
Nevertheless, on her 2007 set Between Daylight & Dark, Gauthierís focus grew more personal. Although it, too, was mired in heartache and pain, the effort also contained moments when it appeared as if she finally was on the verge of finding some kind of inner peace. She never really has explained why she had such an intense fascination in following societyís outcasts or the reasons why the clouds above her head had begun to part. Yet, it was possible to sense that something within Gauthierís world had changed. Her latest effort The Foundling places the entirety of her career into perspective.
As it turned out, the glow that had begun to peek around the edges of Gauthierís work was emanating not from the sun, but rather from an oncoming train. With this in mind, The Foundling is, perhaps, the most emotionally raw outing of her career. A carefully crafted, conceptual endeavor, The Foundling details Gauthierís quest not only to find her birth mother but also to find herself. In the process, she wades through all of her conflicted thoughts and feelings. Moving from an orphanage to the streets to the open road, she struggles to understand how a parent could walk away from a child in the first place, let alone to reject an opportunity for reconciliation years later.
Like all of Gauthierís previous endeavors, The Foundling musically resides at the crossroads that connects Lucinda Williams to the Indigo Girls. Whether it is the nomadic waltz of the title track or the crushing sorrow and rampant disconnection of Mama Here, Mama Gone, the intoxicated swagger of Sideshow or the seething Blood Is Blood, none of the songs on The Foundling ever strays outside the realm of blues-based folk and amplified country. Yet, the overall mood that pervades The Foundling is so agonizingly mournful that the set undeniably feels like an extension of Pink Floydís The Final Cut. In effect, with the help of producer Michael Timmins, Gauthier has captured the essence of her experiences as she succumbed to the darkness, momentarily allowing it to consume her.
Without a doubt, The Foundling is not for the faint of heart. It is an autobiographical tale that offers an unflinchingly honest glimpse at the process through which Gauthier moved on her journey of self-discoveries. As the outing nears its conclusion, a faint glimmer of light begins to flicker as Gauthier begins to emerge from the blackened depths of her cocoon. Propped up on The Orphan Kingís ode to perseverance and survival, she pushes away the baggage of her past and embraces her life as a traveling musician (Another Day Borrowed). She is still a solitary figure, and her explorations raised more questions than they answered. At the very least, though, Gauthier is better positioned to comprehend the reasons why she has continuously been drawn to the open road.
Of Further Interest...
The Foundling is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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