Rifles & Rosary Beads: Mary Gauthier (In The Black)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
If you don’t know Mary Gauthier’s story, you should do a little research. Mary was born  in New Orleans, LA and immediately placed in St Vincent’s Women and Infants Asylum. She was adopted at a year old, but in her teens, had struggles dealing with her circumstances and turned to drugs and alcohol for support. She was then a restaurateur in the heart of Boston for 11 years. She didn’t write her first song until the age of 35. Mary is an incredibly inspirational figure and teaches us all to follow our dreams and never give up. Mary has spent many years clean and sober and turns to music now for therapy.

If my counting can be trusted, this is Mary’s ninth studio album and probably her most ambitious project to date. Rifles & Rosary Beads consists of 11 tracks that are co-written by soldiers and their families. The yield is 11 of the most moving and compelling tracks ever made. These songs come directly from the men and women on the front line and the supporting casts that are left trying to understand something that is incomprehensible. This album deals with subjects such as drug addiction, PTSD, isolation, depression, and faith. Mary is able to mold these stories into beautiful songs.Yes, this is a heavy one.
Every song on here is memorable and special. But, nothing caught my heart and attention like Bullet Holes In The Sky (Track 5). I can’t say for sure what the intent was, but this song has more than one theme. Definitely, themes of loneliness and isolation are prominent.
This song really explores what it’s like to feel completely alone, even in the middle of a crowd. No one truly understands what it’s like to see active duty except someone else who saw active duty. The other theme of this song is about faith. The religion doesn’t matter. Survival is dependent in battle upon the belief in a power greater than yourself. “Heaven shining down on us, like bullet holes in the sky”.
Morphine 1-2 (Track 8) is not a hard one to figure out what it’s all about. But there is more to it than just drug addiction. It seems to be more about trying to suppress the visions and memories of the horrors of war. This song is about the aftermath of a shot down aircraft that was making a blood drop. That incident hit the writer particularly hard, both physically and emotionally. Another poignant song on this collection that will make a grown man cry. There is no shortage of emotion at all.
This album certainly has the potential to be one for the annals. Time will tell, but the craftsmanship is undeniable. From the writing, composition, arrangement, mixing, and production, there is not one hair out of place. High praise indeed and well deserved. If this album is any kind of a bellwether, this is going to be another amazing year for music and we are off to an amazing start. The best part is that some of the proceeds from album sales go to SongwritingWith:Soldiers.
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