RIFLES & ROSARY BEADS
Proper Records/Thirty Tigers
Dangerous, Timeless and Poetically Beautiful Songs of Struggling After War.
Only a couple of months ago I was chatting to a friend and we got to pondering about Mary Gauthier and wondered when she would be releasing a new album; and a week later what should pop through the RMHQ letterbox but this…..the quaintly titled RIFLES & ROSAY BEADS.
As I took the disc from the packaging I raised my eyebrows on seeing the enigmatic artwork on the cover; and ‘that’ title. Knowing Mary’s work of old and coupled to the album cover I immediately knew this wasn’t going to contain many laughs……and nor would it be intended too.
The opening track Soldiering On is breathtaking the first time you hear it. As with the other ten songs here this is a co-write with someone from a non-profit programme called Songwriting With Soldiers; and the rawness of the lyrics and the powerfully dark production tells a story that a simple singer-songwriter could never begin to articulate.
Track #3 The War After The War treads similar territory to Slaid Cleaves recent album but here the tale of a proud Soldier returning to his home fractured on the inside will send a shiver down your spine and make you feel very proud at the way this young person (their sex isn’t made clear; and nor should it matter) keeps ‘fighting’ to get back to some sort of normality.
Okay; Mary Gauthier has had a hand in editing and no doubt even writing all of these songs; but when you listen intently you hear an eloquence that far surpasses many of the albums I receive on a weekly basis; ‘write about what you know’ springs to mind and when I listen to the starkly delicate It’s Her Love and Brothers you wouldn’t wish ‘what they saw and know’ on your worst enemy; but it makes for two amazing songs that should be heard by every politician in the world on a daily basis.
The poetic title track RIFLES & ROSARY BEADS encompasses the full scale irony that these young people have encountered on a daily basis from the day they chose to ‘sign-up’ through to now when all they have is memories ……and memories that they can’t shake off no matter how hard they or the Doctors try.
Finding a ‘favourite song’ isn’t easy at all; as every single song here is here on merit and tells a story that simply must be heard; and no single story is more worthy than any other but I will point you towards two that brought tears to my eyes more than once over the last couple of weeks.
Bullet Holes in The Sky is a timeless story that will resonate with Vietnam and Korean War veterans as much as it will with the young men and women who are in and leaving the military in 2018. Bittersweet hardly describes the mixed feelings of pride and horror at what these people have seen and done ‘for the greater good.’
The other…..phew……Iraq……certainly isn’t what the ‘great and the good want you to hear’ when they touch their hearts while looking wistfully at the Flag. Mary takes on the role and words of a young woman whose ‘enemy wasn’t Iraq’ but her fellow military mechanics who sexually harass her and eventually take her to the brink. Sadly this is a story that will resonate with women of all persuasions and professions; but is all too common in the various military institutions around the world.
While as far from Gung-Ho as you can get; Stronger Together which closes this remarkable album manages to be a song of hope and love written from the perspective of the soldiers, sailors and airmen’s families who have to battle on alongside and sometimes despite the people they love.
Every song here tells a real story; and none of them come from the John Wayne School of heroics; these are real people recounting real experiences and real memories with the guidance of one of America’s premier songwriters and the results are truly staggering and beautiful in equal measure.
I doubt you will ever hear any of these songs on public radio or even read a review of the album in National magazines or newspapers; such is the strong sentiment in each individual work; but trust me……..this is an album every single person in Western Civilisation should hear at least once…..then send a copy to your politicians who keep War Mongering then sitting behind their big oak desks and counting their profits while the combatants come home and Fight The War After The War.
Released January 26th 2018