It’s raining non stop. A heavy drizzle is the best way to describe it. I’ve taken Bruno out for a walk and he is now so reluctant to go out that he mooches behind me and I have to drag him on the lead while he stays resolutely behind me. He is also so anxious in the house whenever it rains that he is constantly beseeching Roo and I to let him to go into the garden. “Let me out, set me free” he seems to be saying which just happens to be the chorus of the first track on this album. Before I move onto the album, just to say that Bruno must have some horrible experience in the five years before we got him, probably involving being shut up in a kennel or a farm building with a tin roof and the sound of rain seems to scare him rigid. The other day, when I let him into the garden, he simply lay down in a hole in the garden which he had previously dug and looked very miserable. It’s heartbreaking to see such a change in his attitude over the past few months. Our dog walker takes him out once a week now to see if he simply misses interaction with other dogs.
“Falling Out Of Love” doesn’t describe my feelings about Bruno – anything but. However, in the first track on this album, Mary Gauthier describes exactly that feeling. A lovely acoustic guitar, a mournful wailing harmonica and a repetitive slow drum beat provide the instrumentation to a song that describes the end of a relationship. Her lover has finished it but the singer still has feelings. She wants to fall out of love so she can be free.
“Mercy Now”, the title track of this album, was first introduced to me by good friend Paul with his impeccable good taste. Mary Gauthier said this about the song. “I started writing about my dad and my brother and the pain they were in, coming from a place of compassion for their hurt. But then the song needed more verses, and it occurred to me that the Catholic Church was being ripped apart and losing many of their faithful because of the way they were dealing with pedophile priests. And at the same time Bush was gearing up to a war I was not comfortable with.” When she sings that her country “could use some mercy now“, it feels like the song could have been written yesterday rather than nearly twenty years ago. Mary Gauthier’s delivery is not too dissimilar to Lucinda Williams and it’s interesting that this album was produced by Gurf Morlix who also produced “Lucinda Williams” and “Sweet Old World”.
Mary Gauthier was born in New Orleans in 1962 and abandoned by her parents, was adopted by an Italian Catholic family. She used drugs as a teenager and spent her eighteenth birthday in jail. She worked in kitchens in her twenties and progressed to opening her own kitchen (“Dixie Kitchen” – the title of her first album) on July 12th 1990; this was the night she was arrested for drunk driving – she has been clean ever since. She wrote her first song in 1999.
“I Drink” is a magnificent song. It describes her father coming home from work and picking an argument with her mother. She can see the frown on her father’s face and she recognises the same frown on herself when she looks in a mirror. She has inherited her father’s characteristics and the chorus, in which she makes it clear that her alcoholism is an inevitable result of the way she was brought up, is heartbreaking. Mary Gauthier said “I’ve been sober for a long time, but it’s not like I’ve forgotten all the trials and tribulations.”
My favourite song on the album is “Drop In A Bucket”. Her lover moved out a year ago and she has moved to Nashville but is hanging out in Austin and writing songs – writing songs about her ex lover. She’s about to go out on tour and although she enjoys playing, she feels dead inside. She doesn’t think her love will ever end and a year is nothing (a “Drop In A Bucket”) when she is so forlorn. It’s beautifully sung and desperately sad.
Music this heartbreaking is perfect for a day in which the weather is miserable, the dog is unhappy, a further lockdown looms and BREXIT, Johnson and Trump are ever present in my thoughts. This music is sad but it’s also beautiful and listening to it is cathartic. Just listening to this makes me sunnier and happier.