"It's a cheap hotel, the heat pipes hiss/ the bathroom's down the hall, and it smells like piss." - Falling Out Of Love - Mary Gauthier.

Mary Gauthier's life echoes a character torn from the back pages of Dylan's Desolation Row.

And, like Dylan, she nails herself to the cross in song to maximise the collateral damage of her misspent youth and young adulthood.

Gauthier is a southern belle with a jaded jangle as the central character of songs from her first four albums.

For the record Gauthier, like Mindy Smith, was an orphan raised in a fundamentalist home.

But, unlike Smith, she was a gay junkie living with an adoptive alcoholic father and suicidal mother.

She stole the family car at 15, spent her 16th birthday in detox, moved in with six transvestites at 17 and was jailed for theft from in a car wash at 18.

Gauthier fled from sugar cane town Thibodaux, studied philosophy for five years at Louisiana State University, graduated from a Boston culinary school and was arrested for DUI the night she opened the city's first Cajun restaurant - Dixie Kitchen.

But to appease her cuisine investors she entered a successful rehab program and channelled her creativity into song by belatedly kick starting her writing career at 35 in 1995.

Now, after building on the acclaim Gauthier scored for her first album named after her eaterie she has eliminated the toxins from a success recipe few would try to emulate.


Gauthier's confessional style is her strong suit on her three indie albums - producer Gurf Morlix ensures she catalyses her accessibility on Mercy Now (Lost Highway-Universal.)

Morlix struck a dramatic diva in Gauthier's fellow Louisiana chanteuse Lucinda Williams but showed a little dexterity here in creating harmonic gospel bliss aka Fairfield Four without the expense.

"Gurf could do background vocals that sound like the Fairfield Four without me having to figure out to get 5 80-year-old black guys on a plane to Austin," Gauthier, 43 and logical confessed recently.

"It would have cost $50,000. They all need handlers. They all need cars. But he was able to hear what I heard and just duplicate it by layering his own voice and making it sound like that. Isn't it cool? He's got this one guy named Buddha who sings in a gospel band and got him to come in to lay down the middle part, and just layered himself on top and bottom of Buddha's voice, and it sounds like the Fairfield Four. It's incredible. They're the Austin Two. Don't tell everybody that they're white."

Gauthier only cut two covers - Canadian tourist Fred Eaglesmith's tune Your Sister Cried and Just Say She's A Rhymer - a previously unreleased song by the late Harlan Howard.

Howard's fifth wife and widow Melanie - who also publishes Gauthier's originals - was the source.

Gauthier entrees with Falling Out Of Love - a pathos primed ruptured romance requiem with quasi-religious imagery.

"Falling out of love is a treacherous thing/ with its crucible kiss and its ravaged ring/ with its holy whispers and its labyrinth lies/ sacrilegious hungry sighs."

It segues into the title track with equally graphic imagery - "we hang in the balance/dangle 'tween hell and the hallowed ground."

Empty Spaces and Drop in a Bucket delve into the aftermath of relationship that's finished but not forgotten.

Gauthier also performs I Drink - covered by Bill Chambers on his debut solo CD Sleeping With The Blues.

But her imagery is vivid - check out Prayers Without Words.

"Packing vagabond visions and a dream-drenched hunger for a home/Swaddled in road dirt, blood-stained blankets, poems/On a stormy suitcase Sunday I awakened to the scream of the birds/They held their high notes and offered prayer without words."

The musicians include guitarist Rich Brotherton, drummer Rick Richards, violinist Eamon McLoughlin of The Greencards, Patty Griffin and former Small Faces keyboardist and latter day Austin hired hand Ian McLagan.

CD REVIEW - 2004


"Born a bastard child in New Orleans, to a woman I've never seen/ I don't know if she ever held me, all I know is that she let go of me." - Good Bye - Mary Gauthier.

Mary Gauthier tore a page from Johnny Cash's one night in jail guest book early in life.

Although Gauthier stole cars at 15, spent her 16th birthday in detox and was jailed for theft at 18 she only spent one night in custody.

And she knew her adoptive Italian parents, from whom she fled, in the Louisiana sugar cane town of Thibodaux.

They bailed her out during her wrong rites of passage but she boomeranged in life and song.

Gauthier got her literary licence early and spent a decade writing of life on the cutting edge - a twilight zone that produced songs destined to stand the test of time.

Gauthier emulated Cash and Merle Haggard when she spent her 18th - not her 21st birthday - in prison in Kansas City.

But she impressed a Baton Rouge restaurateur so much he financed her five-year philosophy course at Louisiana State University so she continued to work for him.

"All I've ever done is work in the restaurant business," Gauthier revealed long after she headed north to Cambridge School Of Culinary Arts in Boston.

So it's no surprise Gauthier, now 42, named her 1997 debut disc Dixie Kitchen after her Boston eaterie.

The southern and Cajun menu was a kaleidoscopic culinary entrée for the roughage brewed in her Dixie country-folk songs.


But it was sporadic community radio airplay of second album Drag Queens In Limousines in 1999 that that earned her a niche in the unlucky radio country.

Gauthier lived with drag queens and a stripper who inspired the song Evangeline on a disc strewn with narcotic narratives such as the title track, Jackie's Train and Karla Faye - ode to convicted junkie killer Karla Faye Tucker who was executed in Huntsville prison in 1998.

Ms Tucker, also eulogised by Steve Earle, lanced passion in Texas when Gauthier toured with Earle mentor Guy Clark.

But that was then and her Gurf Morlix produced third album Filth & Fire (Signature) is now.

And thanks to kindred spirit Audrey Auld who included Gauthier gem, Camelot Motel on her Reckless Records Garage Sale compilation, her star is on the ascent here.

Auld's former partner Bill Chambers covered Gauthier song I Drink on solo disc Sleeping With The Blues with accompanying video on Nu Country TV.

It's easy to see why Auld chose Camelot Motel.

This videogenic vignette is a salient signpost to Gauthier's dexterity at weaving "cheaters, liars outlaws and fallen angels" from her travails into an anthem akin to Leonard Cohen's Chelsea Hotel or Dylan's Desolation Row.

"Lancelot and Guinevere bang their bedposts in my ear/ neon lights the castle walls bug lights in the entry halls/ I lie awake with troubled mind thinking about what I left behind/ me and the royal denizens got damn good reasons for our sins."

She peaks in Christmas In Paradise where hobo Davey steals a Christmas tree from K Mart for home under the Cow Key Bridge but doesn't suffer like the hero of John Prine's Christmas In Prison.

The fire in the title ignites entrée song Walk Through The Fire, A Long Way To Fall and the co-write with Catie Curtis on Sugar Cane - the health toll hometown folks pay for sugar cane cash flow.


Merry Go Round - penned with frequent co-writer Crit Harmon - is a neat equine metaphor for heroin abuse.

"It's inspired by the death of Eddy Shaver and finding this songwriter Malcolm Holcombe," she revealed, "I opened for him in Nashville."

Gauthier's cast seek salvation but are often left in limbo like her character in The Ledge.

"I held a grudge, I held a gun/ held contempt for everyone/ I couldn't cry, I couldn't learn/ I didn't flinch when bridges burned."

The Gauthier experiment works for Morlix whose embryonic toil on Lucinda Williams Car Wheels On A Gravel Road was derailed.

Multi-instrumentalist Morlix adds steel to stone country After You've Gone and Christmas In Paradise, mandocello and bass to Jonathan Pointer's For Rose, and percussion and harmonium to fatalistic finale The Sun Fades The Colour Of Everything.

Further info visit www.marygauthier.com

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