Darkness on the Edge of Town

Nashville singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier embodies the word "intense." And that's a good thing.

The songs come from any place that speaks to Gauthier: newspaper obituaries, a hotel window in Amsterdam, images of fireflies circling in the dark and all those wayward intimations of spirit that can't be summarized, though they can sometimes be sung.

"I could use a lot more faith than what I have," Gauthier says with some hesitation. "I got some. I'd like to have more. There's something in the spirit. I look at life itself with awe, the fuel behind our consciousness. I don't know how to talk about it. Every time I try to talk about it, it leads me to words that have already been ruined, and I sound like something I'm not. So many of our words are destroyed, we can't have them anymore. I'm left kind of speechless."

On the album's last song, "Thanksgiving," Gauthier imagines a holiday in a penitentiary. The story has no punch line. Every soul moves with the slowness of marked time, every visitor knows that "love ain't easy and love ain't free." It's a dark portrait of life, but every detail rings true.

Mary Gauthier: "I try to present the struggle as the struggle, not as a whole lot of fun."
Michael Wilson
Mary Gauthier: "I try to present the struggle as the struggle, not as a whole lot of fun."

"I get accused of being too dark, too heavy, too grim," she admits. "Where's the optimism? The folks I'm singing about have to look really hard to just be. I hope that I wouldn't romanticize those situations. I wrote 'Drag Queens in Limousines' a long time ago, and it made it sound fun to be a homeless kid. So maybe I've been guilty as charged. But I try to present the struggle as the struggle, not as a whole lot of fun."

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