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Seasoned Americana singer-songwriter, Louisiana, Mary Gauthier isn’t the kind of person to back away from an issue, but rather an artist who takes on the world face on. Unafraid to tread ground others tend to detour or look past.
As heard in her previous nine albums her latest record is no different. In fact it could not be more forthright, and honest. It might also be one of her finest, and most honest record yet! Gauthier's greatest strength is of course the lyrical content of her work (the music it too meets the audience full on). A superb observer she is known for telling a good story as if she were living it, hence the listener can’t help but engage with the lyrics. Here she is given the unique support of people, veterans who have served in the US forces to be exact. It all came about after Gauthier became involved in Songwriting With Soldiers Program, one that has US Military Vets and their families turn their experience into music (a project fellow singer-songwriter, Darden Smith is heavily involved in). Over the last 4 ½ years and counting she has written 50 such songs, and foresees her releasing a series of albums from heart to heart conversations where she obtained ‘human connection’ with those most affected.
Her spin on war is most sympathetic towards the soldier left to carry out the deed, and go places few of us can comprehend. Quite often to a place many Americans don’t know its geographic location, never mind the culture or who their neighbours are ,and effect their presence is likely to have on that particular country good or bad.
Some are from a women’s perspective as she speaks of sexual abuse in Iraq, and of how they aren’t fully prepared to have female combatants in the field and the fact they are still called servicemen. Something that rattles them greatly, it seems considering recent changes in today’s world the US military have missed a beat here.
Highlights include the addition vocal aided “Soldering On”, and with her heart and soul marching in determined fashion “Brothers” (about inequality on the women’s front). You also have the sombre title-track “Rifles To Rosary Beads”. Others to add to the above include “Bullet Holes In The Sky”; inspired by US Navy Desert Storm veteran and his story of how on Veteran’s Day those with an active military ID are given a free breakfast at Waffle House, and on pressing home the case for those who pick up the pieces when the men come home, the families. Another of the ilk is “The War After The War” (also see “Stronger Together”), a piece you can't help but muse over and learn from. As another side of war is told in a simple, unbiased fashion.
Her finest and strongest shows of passion are undoubtedly those when she tells it from a woman’s perspective; like with “Iraq” and “Brothers”. Gauthier is the type of person you would want in your corner if you were in a scrap, or had an obstacle to over come no matter what or where the location. While my review copy comes without all the personnel the listener has some fine vocal harmonies to savour, none better than those featured on the impassioned “Stronger Together”.
Dour, earthy with little in the way of humour Gauthier faces the issue face on. Many is the time she was been reduced to tears hearing the stories or on realising the magnitude of the hurt and negative impact war has on people. It isn’t a comic book story! As in her own words what you have here is the power of song and from those reflections shared, willingly by the veterans and their families is the whole truth and not just part of it.
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