When you think of the great storyteller songwriters certain names come to mind. Names like, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Chris Knight just to name a few. These people have one thing in common. They are all men. I have news for these gentlemen. The doors to the "old boys club" have been busted down and Mary Gauthier has just ordered a round for the house.
The best story songs, though often tragic, can be redemptive and healing to the listeners as they get lost in the narrative of the song. While the listeners may not directly relate to the extremity of the situations in which the characters on Between Daylight and Dark exist, they can still find plenty of common ground among less extreme but common circumstances in their own life. Sadness and tough circumstances come into contact with everyone at some point. Some people have more than their fair share of heartache.
The brokenness that scatters the landscape of this album is offset by characters who maintain some form dignity in their circumstances. Out of their sadness hope begins to grow. For example, "Last of the Hobo Kings" sings of the life of a man who was part of the train hopping sub-culture that no longer exists. Gauthier seems to suggest that the end of the Hobo era points to a greater loss of spirit and adventure in our country. She points to the wisdom that the hobo gained in his travels by saying he "knew how his nation was doing by the size of a sidewalk cigarette butt." "Thanksgiving" follows a grandmother taking her grandchild to see her father in prison on Thanksgiving. Growth is seen in "I Ain't Leavin." In this song the main character decides to stay and fight for a relationship when previously she would run away. "Broken on the inside is what I used to say. Then I'd pack my bags raise a white flag and drive away. I thought that's what made me strong, but I was young and I was wrong."
Every song on this Lost Highway release has similar impact. She wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album. My favorite collaboration on the album is "Snakebit," which she co-wrote with Hayes Carll. Joe Henry produced the album and kept things simple and understated in a way that lets Gauthier shine in a way that makes this the best release of her career.
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This review also appears on: Twangville