Mary Gauthier Fitzroy

photo: Gerry McNally


When you hear the Bible in an Africa slum it can speak in a very different way than when you read it surrounded by the wealth of a suburban European city. I think it is the same with novel or film or song. Where you are when you read, watch or listen effects the impact. 

Mary Gauthier gives an importance of place to her concert in Fitzroy. She said, “We love playing old churches…  All this wood… It is like playing a guitar inside a guitar!”

Gauthier also spoke of how good old buildings were. Everything old actually. Her guitar is older than her and sounds better every day. “New boots?” she pondered, “Drive a truck over them before you wear them!” That is an image that could describe Gauthier’s life. She had been through a lot of soul bruising before she started writing songs at the age of 35.

I was a fan of Mary Gauthier before the concert but I am a much bigger fan after it. Gauthier has a gift with rhyme and rhythm and melody - no doubt. However, live I realised how much she adds. She has this gift of inflection where her voice can stretch and reach, adding to the drama, the passion and the sensitivity. She’s a gift to our generation. 

The music too. She adds to her acoustic guitar, the vocals and second guitar of Jaimee Harris, who doubled up as a top support slot too. Then there is Michele Gazich who swoops and swirls with his fiddle that makes you give thanks for what Scarlet Rivera short period with Bob Dylan added to music! Michele also tinkles pianos beautifully. This all adds more shades and textures to the piece.

Mary is quick in the evening to share a new song about love and time. The tender beauty of love and the fear that time takes loved ones away. It’s that maturity again. It is an all out love song but with more depth - reminders of our mortality. 

I Drink is an older song that throws an honest perspective on addictions handed down. 


At night he'd sit 'lone and smoke

I'd see his frown behind his lighter's flame

Now that same frown's in my mirror

I got my daddy's blood inside my veins


Fish swim, birds fly

Daddies yell, mamas cry

Old men sit and think

I drink


She does a couple of songs co-written with Northern Ireland’s Ben Glover to huge applause. Another Train is a good one but Oh Soul is an utter gem. This is where the location enhances the hearing.


Redemption, redemption have mercy on me

Redemption, redemption have mercy on me

A body’s but a prison when the soul’s a refugee

Oh soul I sold you away


For me it seemed perfect that Mary was singing in a Church - our Church! Mary Gauthier is a weighty songwriter. Her writing is heavy with realism. There is no fluff! These are songs of hard times in a rough world and the hope of finding mercy somewhere - now!

On this particular tour she is promoting a record, Rifles and Rosaries, that was co written with wounded soldiers and their spouses about war and the aftermath. As service members and their spouses relayed their trauma Mary turned them into song and hopefully helped the mental and emotional healing.

The songs are beautiful but they are not an easy listen. Gauthier’s ability to take the images shared and make them rhyme and give them melody somehow opens up the horror of war in the most sensitive and hopefully healing of ways.


Yellow smoke orange haze

Blowing into my eyes

Whistling sunset bombs

I couldn't trust the sky 

(Rifles and Rosary Beads)


The war is far from over when solders come home. Mary told us that more service members die of suicide at home than were lost in the recent wars. In the voice of the spouses Mary sings:


But I'm stronger than you think I am

I'm right here by your side

I am not your enemy, I don't wanna fight

There's no going back in time, I know you're not the same

But you are not the only one for whom the world has changed

Invisible, the war after the war 

(The War After The War)


Oh this is so much more than a concert, Gauthier is so much more than singer. When she sings her best known song, the lyrics of which appear on a tea towel available at the mercy stand, it is like a benediction or an intercessory prayer (indeed I used as such the day after). It is deep soul diving. It is rough. It is compassionate. It is for every one of us:


Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now

I know we don't deserve it but we need it anyhow

We hang in the balance dangle 'tween hell and hallowed ground

And every single one of us could use some mercy now

Every single one of us could use some mercy now

Every single one of us could use some mercy now

(Mercy Now)


I said it before, Mary Gauthier is a gift to the generation.


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