Review: Congregation held rapt by Mary Gauthier
Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
The Americana troubadour began her gig at St George's Church in Belfast last night by taking a photograph of the audience. It was for her mother, the singer explained: "She'll be happy I was able to pull a crowd in a church."
A lot of musicians are described as mavericks, but New Orleans-born Gauthier – who books her own shows and drives herself from city to city – surely defines the term. The 51-year-old, abandoned as a child and subsequently adopted, has battled with alcohol and drugs and spent time in rehab and jail before coming to songwriting at age 35.
Since then, she has been named gay country artist of the year and counts everyone from Boy George to Bob Dylan as fans. Gauthier's style is certainly as poetic as the latter and notably influenced by him.
Her deep lyrics concern subjects like addiction, disease and murder.
"When you flirt with the shadows, darkness snakes under your skin," she crooned on Same Road, while I Drink and Mercy In The Sky were similarly bleak.
Perched on the church's grand stage, as night fell, accompanied by a mournful violin, this was a sermon with a difference.
But Gauthier held the Belfast congregation as rapt as any preacher could.