Mary Gauthier

Long before folk became mood music for the NPR crowd, it was the genre of choice for many a hard-edged musician, including south Louisiana native Mary Gauthier, a woman who doesn't pull punches or mince words. Gauthier's tough youth and early family life put the funk in dysfunctional, and she spins harrowing Cajun gothic tales of double-bind relationships bound by barbed wire and bathed in blood. Yeah, she's hardly easy listening, but there's a redemptive quality to her journeys through the valley of tough times and poisoned love.

Filth & Fire, the title of her new album, just about says it all. She's a perfect match with Austin producer Gurf Morlix. Gauthier does have a certain resemblance to Lucinda Williams, with whom Morlix has also worked, but there's a big difference: Rather than sounding like the crunchy thrum of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Gauthier's music is more akin to being dragged behind a car down that rough and rutted Southern trail. But she's so damn good at crawling through the wreckage of inhumanity that one comes away exhausted yet renewed. Or, in other words, this is true art as beautiful and chilling as Picasso's Guernica.

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Rob Patterson