CD Review: Mary Gauthier

Between Daylight and Dark Lost Highway
Music ••• Sound ••

There's really no getting around the simple fact that Between Daylight and Dark, the follow-up to singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier's stunning Mercy Now, is a major disappointment. What's not so simple is making sense of the reasons why - reasons that (to these ears, anyway) seem to be far less about Gauthier's skills as a lyricist and composer and far more about the overall tone and atmosphere created by producer (and fellow singer/songwriter) Joe Henry.

I guess Henry's thought process was that using a sparse mix of thin fingerpicked guitars, round prominent bass, and echoey backdropped percussion for every track would provide an effectively bleak and unsettling aural landscape for Gauthier's hard-eyed, hard-nosed tales of common people trying to cope with life's and love's uncommon troubles. Unfortunately, this conceptual approach backfires, and virtually every song falls victim to a sluggish sameness that works against, not for it.

The few songs that stand out - such as "Last of the Hobo Kings," about a vanished free-spirited America, and "Thanksgiving," about a family prison visit - succeed in spite of their surroundings. And they at least serve as small reminders of Mary Gauthier's unique talents.

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