I want to day to pay tribute to our special guest this Friday, Mary Gauthier. Firstly because she has been our most frequent guest on the AC over the years we’ve been on air but mostly because every time she comes in I feel a little better about the world after she leaves. Mary never simply ‘delivers’ a new record. Her life is given over to songwriting and every twist, heartbreak and disappointment is catalogued remorselessly. As Neil Young once wrote, ‘my life’s an open book…’ except in his case it was nowhere near as true as in Mary’s.

mary 2

For many years she wouldn’t have considered herself a songwriter, singer or guitarist. It was a move she made in early adulthood after years in various jobs including being a cook  and running her own southern themed restaurant in Boston. That only came after she’d fled her Louisiana home via a stolen car and ended up in detox and jail in Kansas City aged 18. To say she has lived a bit doesn’t really do her remarkable career enough justice. When Mary was last with us she was talking about her autobiographically themed album, The Foundling, which highlighted her search for her birth mother; the hardest part being that there was no redemption in the search. When Mary finally caught up with what had happened in her early life she met a new rejection all over again. She ended up speaking on her phone only to discover that there would be no reunion. Then there’s alcohol.

Fish swim
Birds fly
Lovers leave
By and by
Old men
Sit and think
I drink

Mary’s stark appraisal of the disease of alcoholism is sometimes wholly misunderstood. But here’s what she says…

But here’s the beautiful part … I could not have written “I Drink” if I was never addicted. Writing “I Drink” required a perspective that an active alcoholic is not capable of, and a non-alcoholic cannot fully comprehend. I needed to go through what I went thorough to write it, and today I would not change a thing even if I could because for me, inside the curse— lives the blessing. The wisdom, vision and compassion that comes from taking a stroll to hell and back cannot be obtained any other way. I was lucky enough to find my way through to the other side of addiction and into recovery, and I continue to receive many, many blessings from all that has transpired in my life. Songwriting is one of the greatest blessings of all, and writing “I Drink” stems from recovery. Ain’t life interesting?

This time round Mary is facing another challenge. The break up of a long term relationship. Get ready for  a sad, honest, brutal but eventually life-affirming interview. Hopefully, this will also lead you to Mary’s excellent new record too. We’ll hear about Mary’s co writers, Ben Glover and Gretchen Peters. We’ll hear about the lost songs of Harlan Howard and how Nashville (the TV series) is giving Nashville (the music city) a well deserved boost through using songs by Mary and others.

Last Friday the Grand Ole Opry gave Mary a standing ovation. She was surprised but delighted. Here she is on stage at The Opry with Kathy Mattea, Radney Foster, and Marty Stuart.


Since it’s a few weeks since we talked I got back in touch with her today and asked her to reflect on what that night  meant. She was kind enough, as I knew she would be, to take time to say this:

It’s hard to get these thoughts concise, and this is a bit long, so feel free to edit as you need to.
It was so much FUN, thats what I was feeling the most. The fun of it, having my friends Kathy Mattea and Marty Stuart and Radney Foster up there singing with me, and the amazing Opry House band, (we ran through the songs in the storage room 15 minutes before, and hit it off beautifully). I opened with Mercy Now, with the Opry singers singing ooo’s in behind me, and I felt surrounded by beauty and love. And I think I truly was! 
Another Train was my second song, and the chorus lifted off like a rocket ship with Kathy and Radney singing the 3 part chorus harmony with me, along with the Opry Singers behind them. It felt like blast off in a rocket ship. Then Marty Stuart walked on with his electric guitar and I felt an electrical shock go up and down my spine when he hit his first note. He sounded so GOOD! He plays Pops Staples electric guitar, and MAN, wow!
When I asked him to join me the week before he agreed to, but he wanted to walk on unannounced, and it was the right thing to do. He was amazing, he just slid in from stage left and killed it!!. 
What does all this mean? The standing ovation? The welcome arms around me? I dunno. I could say a lot of things, but they are just guesses. All I really know is that it was a hell of a lot of fun!! 
As well as that we’ll have new music from Otis Gibbs, Chatham County Line, Miranda Lambert, Bob Mould and a lovely vinyl surprise from Johnny Cash.
So, this Friday join me if you can for Mary and so much more from Five Past Eight on BBC Radio Scotland.