Mary Gauthier's Between Daylight and Dark is filled with insightful, exacting storytelling, from broken-but-unbowed tribute "Last of the Hobo Kings" to heart-ripping finale "Thanksgiving," which describes a poor family's prison visit. When the guards have the grandmother take off her coat and stand in the cold wind to frisk her, Gauthier makes it feel like she's talking about your grandmother; if that doesn't make you want to cry, you're hollow inside. Her flat singing style will never be compared to Linda Ronstadt's or k.d. lang's, but Gauthier's strength is her ability to wring every bit of emotion out of these intimate ruminations on love, conscience, decency and regret. With minimalist backing and laser-precise observations like "shadows dance across the sidewalks and ricochet off houses like pieces of art," every song is a poetic home run. The opening sentiment of "I Ain't Leavin'" — "Broken on the inside, that's what I used to say, I'd pack my bags, raise a white flag and drive away; I thought that's what made me strong, but I was young and I was wrong" — is enough by itself to assure the Louisianan's place at the head table of American songwriters.
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