“There's freedom in knowing that you don't have to know it all,” she says, “which is why to me, a song should end with a question, not an answer.” It might seem that after six groundbreaking albums of original songs, more than a dozen years of recording and touring around the world, a harvest of music industry awards, and covers of her songs by a roster of great artists – that Mary Gauthier (say it: go-shay) should have a handle on some of the big answers. Yet with each new album, with each new cycle of songs that illuminate her soul, with each old and new set of characters and life changes she introduces, Mary is always ending up with more questions. Where do her people come from and where do they go? How can they find shelter from the storm? What is the truth?
It is said that the master songwriters – the “truth tellers,” as Mary refers to the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith – always put a piece of themselves into every song and first shined light on the truth and lies of her world before she began to put pen to paper herself. It’s up to the listener to imagine what is real and what is a dream. This sense of autobiography has always loomed large in the work of Mary Gauthier. On her newest album, The Foundling, her first concept album, Mary opens the door on the defining circumstance of her life, the emotional journey and aftermath of finding the mother who surrendered her in New Orleans after her birth in March 1962 (the month Bob Dylan released his first album, to put a perspective on it).
On The Foundling, Mary explains via her website (www.marygauthier.com), “the songs tell the story of a kid abandoned at birth who spent a year in an orphanage and was adopted, who ran way from the adopted home and ended up in show business, who searched for birth parents late in life and found one and was rejected, and who came through the other side of all of this still believing in love.” Mary’s “compass” was Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, his classic concept album of 1975 (with “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”).
Written and recorded over the course of two years, The Foundling was produced in Toronto by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, using local musicians and his sister Margo Timmins on vocal harmonies. “Margo added another layer of emotional punch in the right places,” says Mary. She praises Mike’s ability “to capture my story and create moods around it, a dream soundscape. The musicians breathed their hearts and souls into my songs, and they brought them to life. I am pleased beyond my wildest dreams at how the record came out.”