Preview Rifles & Rosary Beads by Mary Gauthier.
Rifles & Rosary Beads by Mary Gauthier
The unflinching and brutally honest lyrics of Mary Gauthier made her a compelling choice for the SongwritingWith: Soldiers charity. SWS pairs songwriters, on a short retreat, with veterans, active military and their families. Here the song writing process provides respite from the ravages of active service.
Gauthier’s previous nine albums have had the hallmark of confessional conversations: scar tissue from alcohol abuse, half way houses and failed relationships. This storyline has been played out with her hallmark Bluesy Folk drawl since she entered the music industry at the age of 35 years old.
Gauthier was anxious about her credentials for this exercise – “I didn’t feel I knew how to be in the presence of that much trauma without being afraid” – needless to say this is an intimate and cathartic collection of songs written about a whole raft of experiences.
In an empathetic setting she has listened to the stories and set them to music. From here the finished draft went in to the studio and the album presents these narratives with a full band. The instrumentation is sparse but strings, piano, harmonica, guitars and bass come together for a tender confection. The songs are not battle hymns but address instead the on going struggles of life after service:
“When I’m broken and I push her away
She always fights back she’s with me to stay
When the bodies are all I can see
She’s my beautiful anchor to reality”
Gauthier sings this sad love song, “It’s Her Love”; with her distinctive voice against a finger picked acoustic guitar before a piano and string accompany to build the atmosphere. Haunting and beautiful.
“War After The War’ is a heart rending tale of a wife living with a damaged ex soldier. The irony being that he receives praise and respect and meanwhile she attempts to cope with the turmoil that inhabits their four walls.
A gentle drum drives “Stronger Together” whilst Gauthier leads a group of army wives (married to Explosive Ordnance Disposal soldiers) with words such as:
“EOD wives don’t sit by the phone
No news is good news back at home”
“Bullet Holes In the Sky” tells the story of US Navy Desert Storm Veteran Jamie Trent who notes the public gratitude on Veterans Day. Gauthier separately goes on to explain – ‘The feelings deep inside the service members are complex, difficult to express. There’s pride in being in service. Faith in God. Patriotism. Sorrow, for those who were lost. And the feeling of being sadly resigned to the fact that these wars never end, they just keep coming’.
Piano keys like falling shards glass introduce her voice and over cellos she delivers the melody of the album:
“They thank me for my service and wave their little flags
They genuflect on Sundays and I know they'd send us back
But I believe in God and country and in angels up on high?
And in heaven shining down on us through bullet holes in the sky”
With Becky Warren’s 2016 record War Surplus, the Oscar winner, Hurt Locker, and even the odd song by The Pogues then war is an area of reflection that is often revisited. We have a lot to be thankful and thoughtful about.
For every bill written then someone has to pay. Here are songs to those we owe the debt. Poignant and powerful. When this sees the light of day in January and I urge you to hear it.