Mary Gauthier: 2018
Mary Gauthier at WFUV (photo by Jeremy Rainer)
Over the years there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of songs extolling the exploits or challenges of soldiers, but, until recently, virtually none using the words of soldiers themselves. One person who changed that was the Austin, Texas musician Darden Smith, who founded an organization called Songwriting With Soldiers. Mary Gauthier, the Louisiana-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter, was introduced to the program by Darrell Scott, and the result is a critically-acclaimed, once-in-a-generation album, Rifles & Rosary Beads.
For the album Gauthier collaborated with American veterans, both male and female, and their families, taking their words and shaping them into songs. "Bullet Holes in the Sky," a musical descendant of John Prine's classic "Sam Stone," reveals the ambivalence of a veteran on Veteran's Day. "Brothers" portrays the difficulty of being a new mother on active duty. "The War After the War" acknowledges the "landmines in the living room" that families face when a soldier returns home.
Accompanied by violinist Michele Gazich, Gauthier performed and shared the stories behind some of these gripping songs in a return visit to WFUV, making an eloquent case for the healing power of music. She also reprised one of her best-known songs, "Mercy Now," originally recorded in 2005 in the run-up to the Iraq War, but more necessary than ever in these turbulent times.