In country music, authenticity is king. It's that rare quality that allows ex-cons like Merle Haggard and David Allan Coe to show us the misery and loneliness of prison, while Kenny Chesney's left with nothing to moan about but his latest movie-star breakup. Mary Gauthier bleeds authenticity, earned during her youth as a runaway, strung-out and drunk, in jail and in halfway houses. Her songs are lush with that turbulent history, her smoky rasp and simple melodies crafting a window into a broken soul. In "I Drink" (from 2005's Mercy Now), she speaks angrily of how her father's alcoholism fueled her own battle with the bottle: "At night he'd sit alone and smoke/I'd see his frown behind his lighter's flame/Now that same frown's in my mirror/I got my daddy's blood inside my veins." Finally, in middle-age, she dragged herself up by the bootstraps, got sober, and started writing music—and though she is clearly still haunted by those dark years, her music carries a strong undercurrent of her own redemption. She comes full circle in "Mercy Now," singing again about her father: "His work is almost over, it won't be long he won't be around/I love my father, he could use some mercy now." Her newest album, Between Daylight and Dark, departs from dwelling on her own narrative and speaks through the voices of characters, each as broken as she once was, but that hard-won authenticity remains. With Diana Jones.
Sun., Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m., 2007