That’s it! That’s just fucking it! The best folk or country album of 2018. Ya, I know it’s only January! But you don’t understand, I haven’t heard an album in this genre that is this good in fucking years! F-u-c-k-i-n-g Y-e-a-r-s! Shit, it’s because of albums like these that country and folk were made in the first place.
If you don’t know Mary Gauthier, I’m sorry for you. But, because she’s got the most folk/cowboy upbringing of all time, alongside johnny cash, I don’t mind introducing her to you.
Born in New Orleans to a mother she never knew, she was left in St. Vincent’s Woman and Infants’ Asylum. Eventually adopted by an Italian Catholic couple, she ran away from home at 15. For the next several years she lived in halfway houses and rehab. She spent her 18th birthday in a jail cell. Trying to change, she enrolled as a philosophy major but dropped out her senior year. She then became a cook and opened a Cajun restaurant in Boston. After being a full on alcoholic for most of her life, she was eventually arrested for drunk driving at 28. After which, she dedicated herself full time to sobriety. As a way away from the bottle, she started writing songs. Her first songs were written at 35. Now her songs are taught in American literature classes in universities, appear on Tom Wait’s and Bob Dylan’s playlists, and even though she’s openly gay is a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry. Ya … that’s fucking Mary Gauthier.
“Rifles & Rosary Beads” is an album written by U.S. veterans and their families alongside Gauthier. This album took years to make. And, it wasn’t made for money or awards (note that the grammy’s just passed). it’s there to tell a truth that needs to be heard. It’s 11 tracks of deeply personal stories coming from veterans and their spouses. Gautier gave a voice to those whose experience of life is made of the same shit as our worst nightmares, and she played this shit in major chords.
The lyrics and melodies on these songs are FUCKING PERFECT. They don’t talk over people’s head, they are honest and poetic, and they are sang in the true and clear vocal of Gauthier. She sings clearly so no one misunderstands what these veterans have to say. The songs are a classic 3-5 minute length. It may seem odd to the modern ear to hang on for that long. It may even be more odd that the songs have guitar solos. But the guitar solos are there so the listener can contemplate the lyrics, and the length is there because that’s just how long it takes to say the message. These songs aren’t filled with fortune cookie lyrics. They tell stories of real lives.
I don’t fucking care what your aesthetics are like or if you happen to find country or folk music, “cheesy”. The songs themselves, not the performance, is the key. Will you cry? Maybe. Probably. It’s highly likely unless you’re broken or you don’t listen into the lyrics. Gauthier already wrote depressing shit before she got lyrics from veterans, so this shit is pure struggle and misery sung alongside an acoustic guitar. Like I said before, it’s pure country/folk. It might ruin your day a bit to listen. You might end up melancholy and sad. Well boo-fucking-hoo! Call the whambulance! The guys who wrote these songs had more than just a bad day. The reason we are all not constantly getting butt fucked by German rifles and wearing stylish ISIS jackets is because of people like this. I understand if you don’t want to know how sausage is made, or if you want to keep your head in the sand. But, all this album is is a window. It’s 11 songs. I promise you it ends. And honestly … it’s the least we can do.
These songs will eventually be played and covered by wide array of artists cause these songs aren’t gimmicks. They aren’t just good for veteran songs. They will become standards simply because they are really, really, really, really, well written. If they aren’t, then there is something deeply wrong with artists these days. So take a breath, understand that some stories need to be heard like medicine is drunk, and sink into these beautifully written songs and stories. Welcome to one of the greatest living songwriters taking a step back so that people who need to be heard can be heard.