Mary Gauthier, In Comic Form At Rams Head

Monday, October 29, 2007

No one shows up at a Mary Gauthier concert for the first time expecting a lot of laughs, and no one returns expecting anything less. At the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis on Friday night, the singer-songwriter was in prime form, punctuating tales of despair and bad luck with flashes of wicked humor.

Gauthier's songbook is about as grim as it gets, populated by tortured but resilient souls looking for a sliver of solace or a "soft place to land." But when she wasn't singing, Gauthier (pronounced "Go-shay") worked the room like a seasoned stand-up comic. She riffed on funeral homes that have Web sites and skewered some well-heeled folks she had encountered that day at a nearby hotel who dined on lobster while watching CNN's "Planet in Peril." She also reflected on the bleak nature of her songwriting. After performing "I Drink," her best-known tune (thanks in part to a plug on Bob Dylan's satellite radio show), Gauthier explained that her efforts to write the saddest country song imaginable backfired when she discovered that "drunk people" around the world had boisterously embraced the lyric, as if it were their own "Margaritaville."

Playing mostly finger-style acoustic guitar and occasionally employing a rack-mounted harmonica, Gauthier spent most of the set performing songs from her latest CD, "Between Daylight and Dark." Her hazy, country blues-tinted vocals often proved as haunting as her noirish vignettes and yearning ballads. Two older songs, however -- "Wheel Inside the Wheel," dedicated to the late tunesmith Dave Carter, and "Mercy Now" -- radiated a spiritual glow.

-- Mike Joyce

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