I first saw Mary Gauthier in 2002 in a small crammed cafe bar playing from her Drag Queens in Limousines and Filth and Fire albums. She was funny but subdued and I was delighted to discover a lesbian country singer. One of the women I was with called it “sad songs about dead dogs”, but she was pissed off about something else. The woman sitting next to me kept crying. I didn’t know why at the time, having only just joined this particular crowd and being oblivious to underlying drama, so I just went on and drank as much wine as I could hold. I’ve never forgotten the hangover I had the next day at work.
I can’t find the tear-stained ticket stump from my second Mary Gauthier gig in 2005. I usually keep these things, but perhaps it dissolved. Needless to say, by the time I saw her again I was myself deeply embroiled in the drama. She sang mainly from her album Mercy Now which I think is her saddest and, to this day, I can hardly bear to hear even though I think ‘Wheel Inside the Wheel’ and ‘Mercy Now’ are two of her best songs.
In 2008, entirely by accident, I saw Mary again in St Louis. My girlfriend and I booked tickets to see The Cowboy Junkies and she just happened to show up as the supporting act. I was on THE big decision-making trip to the US and it seemed both appropriate and a little portentous to find Mary at yet another juncture in my lesbian life. And, like me, she was a lot more chipper this time around, playing songs from Between the Daylight and the Dark with raucous good humour and delight. We bought a signed poster.
I saw Mary for the fourth time in the North of England last week and of course I’m at another crossroads in my life. She was on very good form, still seeming happy, telling hilarious stories about hobos with laptops, medicine women who recommend books by Harvard psychiatrists and staying in the kind of motel where the folksinger has the best car in the parking lot (so you know it’s not a family place). My girlfriend and I were a little perturbed to find ourselves the youngest people in the place and that no one wanted to sit next to us, but we had a ball nonetheless.
Roll on next time.