Mary Gauthier- The Foundling review

Welcome back to Fervor Coulee. In my Red Deer Advocate roots music column today (May 21, 2010) I advance the local happenings and review Mary Gauthier’s new one, The Foundling. Regular visitors to Fervor Coulee know I’ve been praising this one for several weeks, and now that it is on store shelves I hope my words provide some guidance, helping you decide if the album is for you. Like Gauthier, I am adopted and although my journey has been a bit smoother than hers in many ways, I suspect it has been less interesting. I think all adoptees have a story to share, and I’m glad Mary put hers to song.

Mary Gauthier The Foundling Razor & Tie

An impressive writer with a distinctive delivery, Mary Gauthier has established herself as one of the foremost songwriters of her generation. Rivaling Guy Clark, Gauthier crafts lyrical paintings that become vivid, living testimonials in four minutes.

With five stellar recordings under her belt, the product of the Louisiana school of hard knocks delivers The Founding, her most ambitious and personal album yet. Once again delving into personal darkness, Gauthier writes about her own abandonment and adoption with honesty and clarity.

Recording for the first time with Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), Gauthier expands on the story previously shared in “Goodbye”, a song from her breakthrough Filth & Fire. Blessed with the insight of a philosopher, Gauthier peeks into the abyss while pulling back from self-pity.

Gauthier’s song-cycle explores the lack of family attachment she has felt- the missing connection experienced by many children of adoption- while never becoming  disconnected from the importance of creating stand-alone songs that flow through a sustained narrative.

Gauthier and Timmins take chances throughout the recording. “March 1, 1962” is a one-sided transcript of Gauthier’s conversation with her birth mother, a meeting that ended in shamed rebuff. The liveliness of New Orleans jazz and blues provides juxtaposition to the isolation of “Sideshow.”

“The Orphan King” turns rejection into hopeful strength. Written with Darrell Scott, “Another Day Borrowed” brings the story to its close, at least for now; “passing through, I might be gone tomorrow,” Gauthier sings with acceptance, embracing her gifts.

The more one listens, the stronger the bond one feels with Gauthier and her experiences, the more one absorbs; one never feels more than about five seconds from tears. To Mary Gauthier’s credit, the tears are of admiration, not pity.

Beyond that, nothing much in my world- lots of listening, less writing than I should, and of course the real world dictates the balance. Thanks for dropping by. Donald

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