Sunday, February 25, 2018

MAR* SONGS: March 11th 1962/Mary Gauthier

When this assignment was sent out, it was on the understanding that March might be too restrictive a heading, something the plethora, perhaps, of military band favourites will demonstrate as being a tad pessimistic. But are there many songs about March the month? April, July and September seem to have plenty, I have learnt, but few seem to acknowledge this month, variously either that of the roman god of war or of, largely, the zodiacal fish. Actually, there are a few about pisces. So what could be better than a song that actually references a date, a birthdate, even. (OK, a birthdate that follows, by a day or so, the end of this fortnight, but.......)

Mary Gauthier is somewhat of an unexpected success story, not writing a single song until she hit 35, and probably then never expecting to have an 8 album and counting career. All at the age of, do the math, 55, for March 11 1962 is her true birthdate, as well as being the title of the song above. The Foundling, from 2010, is an inherently autobiographical song cycle based upon her always less than mainstream life. Given up for adoption at birth, truly a foundling, she spent her childhood in the care of an italian catholic couple, from whom she ran, aged 15. Seeking, I guess, herself, she found little but drugs, alcohol and trouble, spending her 18th in jail. Via an abortive period studying philosophy, she learnt cooking and opened the restaurant she ran for 11 years, 'Dixie Kitchen', also the name of her first album, the sale of which funded her 2nd, and breakthrough album, 'Drag Queens and Limousines'. Her almost instantly recognisable drawled tones, imagine an even more raddled Lucinda, often portray tales of life between low and the gutter. Perhaps her most famous song is this, 'I Drink', featured in these very pages some years ago. Here's a link.

But that would do her disservice, to attribute her merits solely to a quasi-Tom Waitsian underworld of squalor and disappointment. Her songs can also lift the soul. Eagerly awaited as I scribble is her latest, a work in conjunction with U.S. army vets and their families, described here. Not out yet in my home country, she is over for a short tour later in the year. Never yet having caught her live, I hope to remedy that. And here is a song from the forthcoming.

Never cute, never gentle, always acutely precise and demanding of thought, here's to you, Mary, have a great 11th.

Dig in!

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