After Mary Gauthier's last release, Mercy Now, I thought, "If she wants to show me some mercy, her next release will be sooner rather than later." Her new release, Between Daylight and Dark, was produced by Joe Henry and is a bit more melodic then her last effort, but the messages she conveys are just as powerful.
One of the more evocative songs is "Can't Find The Way", written from the perspective of someone displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Louden Wainwright joins her with background vocals on "Soft Place to Land." "Thanksgiving" is a distressing true story of visiting a family member in prison for the holiday, from the perspective of a girl sitting with other families in the same situation.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune called Gauthier "one of the grimmest songwriters since Townes Van Zandt." That backhanded compliment puts her in some good company. Gauthier sees it differently. She told the Maryville, Tenn., Daily News, "God gave me the gift of words, so I'm able to ... make something beautiful that one wouldn't think of as beautiful. I think I'm an artist, and maybe I'm good at what you would call junkyard art."
Grim or otherwise, Between Daylight and Dark, is not junk. It's good stuff. And it's timely, too. Just in time for me to add to my Christmas wish list.