Plus Carrie Rodriguez
Wednesday 4 February 7.45pm
Gauthier (pronounced ‘Go-shay’) is rapidly developing into one of the finest
female singer-songwriters on the
Texan Carrie Rodriguez
came to the fore playing fiddle for Chip Taylor, and then later adding harmony
and duet vocals to his deep, lived-in voice. Carrie now steps out centre-stage
with her own solo career with an impressive repertoire that goes beyond the
accepted confines of country or even
Don’t miss this sensational double bill at the Gulbenkian Theatre.
Press Contact Alan Cackett alan_at_acackett_dot_freeserve_dot_co_dot_uk 01622 744 481
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In the case of Mary Gauthier, four words are worth a thousand pictures.
Between Daylight and Dark, her new
Mary Gauthier knows these places well, having travelled through a night that had stretched into years, from a turbulent
Acclaim has followed Gauthier. Mercy Now was continuously “discovered” and lauded in the two years following its release, earning mentions on a score of year end “best of” lists in ’05, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and No Depression. The album even received a benediction from Bob Dylan, who included one of its songs on a playlist for his XM Satellite Radio program.
Gauthier’s evolution as a songwriter continues on Between Daylight and Dark, though the scenery has changed. You have to look closely to see the difference, but it’s there, like a flower pushing through rubble: an intimation of hope, a trace of sunrise in the troubled sky. It’s in the understanding that even as a lover departs on “Before You Leave”, Gauthier sings, “the light that used to shine behind your eyes gets brighter as you walk away”. In the weary wisdom bestowed by love on “Same Road,” Gauthier knows that “when you flirt with the shadows, darkness snakes under your skin” – yet even here, there’s hope: “The only way back home is to let the light of truth come in.”
“I’ll never get rid of that wild-child, going-to-jail, crazy-adolescence story,” she admits. “But I’ve moved way past that thing. I’m ten years into songwriting. I’ve finished my fifth record. I’ve been a sober woman for a very long time, for many years longer than I wasn’t. I’ve matured – and my writing has matured. And I am learning how to allow myself to be vulnerable, to step out on a ledge and hang there, as an artist, and as a woman; to allow my writing to expose parts of me that I have always feared showing - my softer side, my fragility, my needs.”
Gauthier has always been a unique lyricist, with an ability to illuminate even moments of devastation and despair in beautiful hues. That gift is evident throughout Between Daylight and Dark, though her perspective has shifted somewhat. “As a writer, I’m figuring out what my job is today, in this instant,” she explains, “What I did yesterday does not matter. I am more in the moment. I know instinctively when I’m onto something, and then I have to chase that feeling down until I find what it is I need to say in the song. My songwriting changes as I change, and though it’s odd to admit it, I discover a lot about who I am in my songwriting. I can see how I’ve changed by looking back at how my songs have changed. The songs on this record are a little more fragile, a little more tender, and a lot more hopeful.”
Her performances on Between Daylight and Dark reflect her growth not just as a songwriter, but as an artist. Unlike Mercy Now, which was assembled layer upon layer, with each part recorded in sequence, Between Daylight and Dark was cut live, with only an occasional solo or vocal snippet added afterward. Just as important, she gathered her musicians from a pool of players who know how to go deep into a song, being familiar with the creative process from the inside.
Begin with Joe Henry, whose songwriting credentials are well established. With Henry handling production, Gauthier invited musicians like Greg Leisz, Jay Bellerose, Patrick Warren and David Piltch to Henry’s basement studio in
“Everybody was in the same room,” she recalls. “The vocal room is isolated, but there’s a big glass window on either side, so I could watch everyone and they could watch me. It was a performance, which meant that we all knew when we got it, in real time. It was a live performance with an intuitive band, and we all knew when we locked it in. You can just feel it. I learned a lot by doing it this way.”
On one cut, a bona fide legend joined the ensemble. “Joe mentioned to me that he had done some work with Van Dyke Parks,” she says. “I said, ‘ if you could have him come over and play, that would be unbelievable.’ So he did, and I was thrilled to meet him. ‘Can’t Find the Way’ was a great track for him. On the surface it’s about what happened with Hurricane Katrina. Under that surface, it’s a lot of people’s story: we want to go home and we can’t find the way. It’s about being human.”
During the five days it took to cut Between Daylight and Dark the focus stayed on the song: From the thigh-slap beat that Bellerose dreamed up for “Last of the Hobo Kings” to the desert-wide spaces that frame the notes on “Snakebit,” everyone’s performance started with the song, not just with the groove or the chord changes.
“All the guys played with a lyric sheet in front of them. For this record, I wanted the band to do one thing really, to create an environment for the words to enter the listener’s heart. These musicians understood that ultimately, I’m absolutely about the words. It was thrilling to work with a live band that took my lyrics in and then brought them to life with their live performance.”
Pigeonhole Carrie Rodriguez at your peril. Sure, she's done a lot of duets. She plays a fiddle. (a mean one at that.) She's recorded songs with a pleasing, folksy twang.
But don't think you know what you're getting. Not yet 30, and with a critically-acclaimed solo record and several well-received duet records in her wake, the classically trained singer/songwriter has just begun flexing her artistic muscles, still figuring out how far her talents will take her. If you're looking for someone playing it safe and sticking to tried-and-true ways of music making, as the title of Rodriguez's daring new album aptly states, SHE AIN'T ME.
"Because I took some chances, wrote with some new people and actually co-wrote most of the songs on the album, it's very different," Rodriguez notes.
Also different: Malcolm Burn's dense production, bulging with thoughtful details, yet always serving the song. "If the song doesn't hold up on its own, without all the production, he doesn't want to have anything to do with it," Rodriguez says. "And he was much more into the vibe than perfection-which is good for me, because my tendency is to try to make things perfect."
The songs on SHE AIN'T ME, Rodriguez's second solo outing for Manhattan/Back Porch, come from an introspective place, rife with self-assessment and questioning. "It comes from having to really look within yourself when you're forced to be alone, and to not be afraid of that process," Rodriguez says. "Taking some time off from the road this year to write allowed me to do some growing and reflecting that I often put aside when I'm touring all the time."
before Carrie Rodriguez was a fiddle-toting, mandoguitar-slinging Brooklyn-based
singer/songwriter, she was a junior violin student in
"Also," she adds, "I really hated naptime."
lessons soon led to private lessons, which led Carrie to a conservatory program
at Oberlin. Enter Lyle Lovett, a family friend, who invited Carrie to sit in
with his band at soundcheck in
Berklee also set the table for a love of collaboration, which led to three duet records (and many touring miles) with singer/songwriter Chip Taylor, who was instrumental in helping Carrie to realize her debut album, SEVEN ANGELS ON A BICYCLE. The Associated Press raved, "...her voice has a character few achieve. Rather than a support player taking a minor turn, she uses her first solo album to mark her ground as a singular talent." For SHE AIN'T ME, Rodriguez knew it was time to form new collaborations and she ended up with an impressive list of co-writers, including Gary Louris (Jayhawks), Dan Wilson (Semisonic), Jim Boquist (Son Volt) and Mary Gauthier.
feel the most comfortable when I have someone to react to," Rodriguez says. "The
process was completely different with each person I wrote with. For example,
with Mary Gauthier we sat down one rainy afternoon in
Lucinda Williams wasn't among the co-writers, but she makes her presence felt, singing backup on "Mask of Moses" while singing Carrie's praises elsewhere. After receiving a copy of SEVEN ANGELS ON A BICYCLE from Chip Taylor, Lucinda told the New York Times "...I have to say I am very impressed. She's got something unique in her voice that's very subtle and a little smoky and sweet. I detect a certain wisdom in her, and yet a sense of wonder as well." Rodriguez recalls, "Lucinda had sent me this beautiful email, saying how much she loved my record, and how she really saw something special there. And if I ever wanted to open up for her, that'd be great. It was like, wow! Merry Christmas!"
Rodriguez subsequently toured with Williams, and also sat in on fiddle during Lucinda's sets. And it was on the heels of a night out with Williams that Rodriguez met Malcolm Burn-whose work on she'd admired on Emmylou Harris's WRECKING BALL (engineer and musician) and Chris Whitley's LIVING WITH THE LAW (producer and musician)-- for an early chat about her next record. "I was pretty hung-over that morning, in my pajamas, looking like a train wreck," Rodriguez admits. "And Malcolm comes over, looking all dapper in his vintage three-piece suit."
Appearances were quickly dismissed as Malcolm made spot-on suggestions about Carrie's songs, and offered production ideas that made her feel her own project would be a worthy addition to the "desert island discs" Burn has already recorded. "I knew immediately that this was the guy," she recalls.
The result is a record that lives up to its name-an expectation-confounding statement, equal parts organic folk and expansive atmosphere, yet one that comes closest to revealing what Carrie Rodriguez is all about. Think you already know? Think again.