Black Music Matters Festival

Mary Gauthier

Between Daylight and Dark – 2007 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Jacquilynne Schlesier

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CDs by Mary Gauthier

Comparisons between Mary Gauthier and Lucinda Williams are ubiquitous. The shared Southern Gothic sensibilities and rough-hewn voices make Williams an easy touchstone, but Gauthier is no mere imitator.

This is filled with fierce poetry, but uncommon clarity. Settings and characters are so deftly drawn that each song is like a film in miniature.

A grammy who stands proud during a prison visit ("Thanksgiving"), a daddy "carved from hard wood of a bitter tree" ("Snakebit"), a lover who runs away from the pain ("Please") and one who finally stands her ground ("I Ain't Leaving"). Though the songs are less autobiographical than her previous albums, these characters inhabit that same world.

She wastes no time on choruses, anchoring her songs in repetitive phrases. Subtle shadings of the vocals give each repeat a new interpretation.

Recorded in a studio, but under near-live conditions, the music gracefully serves the stories. Jagged guitar notes are picked around accented syllables while simple drumbeats keep each song on solid ground. Neither lush and showy nor spartan and bare, the music echoes the words - just enough detail to paint the picture.