Between Daylight & Dark



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    Between Daylight & Dark Lost Highway

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Review Text Between Daylight and Dark is Mary Gauthier's (pronounced Go-Shay) sixth full-length offering, and a compelling step forward from 2005's Mercy Now. Produced by Joe Henry with most of the musicians who played on his Civilians album and Loudon Wainwright III's Strange Weirdos -- Patrick Warren, Jay Bellerose, Greg Leisz, and David Piltch, with Wainwright and Van Dyke Parks making guest appearances -- it possesses a deeply centered, almost organic sound; one that reverberates the intentions of the songwriter without trying to meet the sound head on. Henry is able to present songwriters as strong presences, as the still centers of a chaotic, frenetic world that whirls all around them, leaving them unaware of the presence of his voice ordering it without being swallowed in the process. But before a producer can make that happen, the songs need to be there, fully present, and contain enough aesthetic authority to allow themselves to be delivered, not consumed. Gauthier has them in spades. She walks her own fraying tightrope; she even dances on it, letting all senses of paradox, violence, dislocation, loneliness, tenderness, bitterness, acceptance, and yes, love, flow through the grain of her earthy voice. The band is ever present yet never intrusive. They offer the singer just enough weight to let her know she's on sure footing on this ledge. And she does know it, but the lyrics here are so utterly naked that a few friends watching her back can keep her from being swept off into the void."Snakebit" is a hunted, struck-with-horror country blues underscored by Leisz's snarling dobro; the scenario comes right out of Flannery O'Connor and Dorothy Allison. Violence roils in the center of the song, but so do confusion and regret at becoming the thing dreaded most, proving the enemy's assertion in the process -- especially when that enemy is flesh and blood.But it's not that simple. Simply by asking "What have I done?" she elevates herself by virtue of a conscience above that primal argument. A sparse piano and acoustic guitars adorn the rain shimmering snare and weary tom toms in "Can't Find the Way." This song talks about Katrina in a way no one else has yet. The well of sadness breaks open just as the levees did. Rage has no place here because the way home no longer exists, and the desire for it is canceled out by a realization dawning in Gauthier's voice; her protagonist knows that the font of belonging somewhere has been washed away; that life will never again touch what has been the state of living without being broken-hearted. Genre matters not here, parlor music and Woody Guthrie's folk tragedies mix with country and even the ghost-trace of Southern country gospel. The title track was co-written with Fred Eaglesmith. It's a lonesome waltz with enough nostalgia in it to really be present to everything in the moment, no matter how minute it is; the observations are imbued with significance simply as they are in the eyes and ears of the singer. The power of description here is profound: catching this fleeting period of the day as it surrenders to dark calls forth the well of emotions that are often better left unspoken because they can't be identified. "Last of the Hobo Kings," with Piltch's gorgeous bassline against Gauthier's guitar and a floating B-3, tells the tale of one of America's displaced, utterly forgotten heroes -- at least for the singer -- the itinerant wanderer who lives by wit, free will, and backbone. She could have offered his story as an elegy, but here it is a testament to him, and a funeral dirge for us. The foreboding bass drum and muffled bassline in "Before You Leave" is as brave a song about need and amorous desperation as Gauthier's ever written. It's resigned; it's accountable even as the protagonist knows that this ending was brought about by her own foibles, her very nature. The tension in the song moves inside the listener who may not be able to bear the simple words that belie these very complex emotions.

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Snakebit - 5:31
  2. 2. Can't Find the Way - 6:06
  3. 3. Between the Daylight and the Dark - 4:15
  4. 4. Last of the Hobo Kings - 6:50
  5. 5. Before You Leave - 4:42
  6. 6. Please - 5:03
  7. 7. Same Road - 5:19
  8. 8. I Ain't Leaving - 5:17
  9. 9. Soft Place to Land - 5:47
  10. 10. Thanksgiving - 5:22

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