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Trouble and Love

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Album Review

On previous albums, Mary Gauthier's signature as a songwriter has been a brutal honesty balanced by rough-hewn tenderness. Nowhere is that more true than on Trouble & Love, a song cycle that journeys through devastating heartbreak and its attendant states: grief, anger, accountability, acceptance, and what lies beyond. She assembled her road band and an all-star cast of singers, co-writers, and players, including Beth Nielsen Chapman, the McCrary Sisters, Viktor Krauss, Darrell Scott, and Ashley Cleveland. Recording live in the round in Ricky Skaggs' Nashville studio, there was little pre-rehearsal and no headphones were used. To paraphrase Gauthier, she didn't want the album to sound real, but be real. "When a Woman Goes Cold," was co-written with Gretchen Peters. In the language of slow electric folk blues, she sings: "You're no longer her concern/Scorched earth cannot burn...." From inside this emotional wreckage, Gauthier begins a transformative journey. "False from True," co-written with Chapman, is a folk song: "You woke up inside a cage/I woke up consumed with rage/A million miles from our first kiss/How does love turn into this?...There are two of you and one don't feel/I don't know which one is real...." She knows both are. The lilting piano, arco bassline, and fingerpicked guitar, illustrate bewilderment and vulnerability. "Oh Soul," a duet with Scott, employs country gospel as Gauthier confesses —to herself, not a god—accountability at the site of Robert Johnson's grave. On the sparse Americana of "Worthy," she sings: "Worthy, worthy, what a thing to claim/Worthy, worthy, ashes into flame..." as accountability becomes awareness; blame is pointless. "How You Learn to Live Alone" is framed by Duane Eddy's reverb-laden, slow country picking and a Hammond B-3. The lyrics reveal the state in which Gauthier regained emotional independence after the net of belonging is revealed as illusion: "You release resistance/Give in to the wind/Until the rain comes pourin' in/You sit in the rubble/Until it feels like home/That's how you learn to live alone." Eddy's guitar caresses her vocal as she surrenders — not despairs. "Another Train" is about carrying her scars as part of life's ragged richness, constantly arriving and departing, its meaning ever present but mysterious. She expresses self-forgiveness and, more importantly, accepts it. The story isn't over at the record's nadir. The "happy ending" is elusive; these songs take place inside an evolving continuum. But Gauthier's discovery is that she can not only absorb this raw experience, but embrace it, becoming stronger and more compassionate than before, which is its own reward. Trouble & Love is unlike other "heartbreak and healing" albums; its hard-won, experiential, Buddhist-like wisdom borders on the profound.

Customer Reviews

Love and Trouble

Who among us hasn’t experienced love and trouble? Mary Gautier’s songs tell of so many of the nuanced experiences involved, you can’t help but identify with one or more of them. And then you don’t feel alone. You feel lighter. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who can’t identify with a thing in these songs, you’ll still enjoy hearing about how love can go wrong. You’ll know you dodged the trouble in love.

As you can see I’ve become a huge fan of Mary Gautier.

Enjoyable honesty

I have been following americana, roots, and alt. country for awhile, but Mary did not hit my radar screen until a year or so ago. Once I found her, I was hooked. Similar to Lucinda, but she grabs me and won’t let me go.


Born: March 11, 1962 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Alt-country singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier exploded onto the scene in 1999 following her self-released sophomore effort, Drag Queens in Limousines. The album, which garnered her a Crossroads Silver Star and a four-star rating in Rolling Stone, had critics comparing her self-described "country noir" to the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, John Prine, and, not surprisingly, Lucinda Williams. The success of Drag Queens led to main-stage shows at festivals around the country and multiple tours...
Full Bio