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Mary Gauthier goes back home

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., October 29, 2007

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Now it may not have been clear by her accent, but Mary Gauthier was back home and at her old haunt.

The former Louisiana resident left there for Boston years ago where she forged a career as a restaurateur before bagging that for music. And one of the places she honed her burgeoning skills as a writer and performer was at Club Passim.

"This club nurtured me when I truly sucked," Gauthier told the packed house to laughter.

That may have been then, but this is now because Gauthier would not be accused of a performance that "truly sucked." In fact, Gauthier laced her sharp songwriting and observations of life with some wit and humor during her 100-minute performance.

Gauthier veered decidedly toward a folk music sound throughout, though she did get a bit bluesy. She tended to stray away from her rootsy and country sounds.

Gauthier started with a long spoken intro to "Last of the Hobo Kings" from her latest disc, "Between Daylight and Dark" about the difficulty she encountered in writing. The sing/song style continued for several songs with Gauthier being in her usual slightly raspy mode.

Fortunately, she altered gears several times during the night, opting to flat out sing her songs and with more power as the show wore on.

The most emotionally penetrating song may have been "Can't Find the Way," a song written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina about the difficulty encountered by those who stayed and left. The slow-paced song was particularly heartfelt, especially given Gauthier's roots. A blow on her harp at the end provided an appropriate ending.

Gauthier received a helping hand for most of the show from guitarist Marc Erelli, a rootsy singer who has his own career going along with playing with Lori McKenna. Erelli added a bit of energy and depth to the songs with his guitar playing and singing. Gauthier also insisted that he perform a few songs. "Volunteers," which Gauthier said drew a standing ovation from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at the Bluebird Café in Nashville last week, was especially poignant about a National Guard soldier going off to war in Iraq.

While there is a self-acknowledged downer quality to a chunk of Gauthier's songs, she ended with the title track of a previous album, "Mercy Now," a hopeful plea for better times.