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Mary Gauthier Mary Gauthier
Album: Rifles & Rosary Beads
Label: Proper
Tracks: 11

There has always been something deeply intriguing about Mary Gauthier, beyond her distinctive, plaintive voice. Many of her lyrics have seemed deeply personal, autobiographical even. Think I Drink and Worthy, to name but two. Yet, despite these personal songs, Gauthier cites her new release, Rifles and Rosary Beads, as her most important work yet. It seems she has used her ability to craft intensely personal songs, to help others to do the same, in turn enabling healing to happen.

Writer Darden Smith established a programme which paired veterans with songwriters. Mary Gauthier stepped forward and the result was this album, eleven songs written alongside veterans and their wives, chronicling their experiences both during and after conflict. Through these songs, they offer the listener a deeply affecting insight. The CD's title places violence alongside peace and prayer; a juxtaposition which sets the scene for the whole collection of songs. Songs such as Bullet Holes in the Sky, Iraq, Soldiering On and Brothers, all allow us to enter the minds of those who have served. Whilst personal to those who wrote them, they speak for many.

Every single day, an average of twenty two veterans take their own lives. Some days more. This is a frightening statistic, which this project and this CD have the power to both raise awareness of and to change. Some of the veterans involved have already described it as "life changing." A testament to the power of music.

Not an easy listen, but a necessary one, from which we can all learn a little more compassion. Maybe lessons can be learned from the past through the voices of those involved.

Helen Mitchell