Trouble & Love

In the Black Records

For the last decade-and-a-half, Mary Gauthier has proven herself time and again to be a keen chronicler of the conundrums ginned up by love. But what distinguishes her latest, the very fine Trouble & Love, from her previous recordings is a shift from getting fired-up by the contradictions and frustrations that love creates into a sort of acceptance. On the opening track, she observes that “it’s out of your control when a woman goes cold,” then follows it with a meditation on how “I can’t tell false from true.” But as spelled out by the title of another song, “How You Learn to Live Alone,” the acceptance she sings of here ultimately suggests more strength than surrender or resignation. Bigger themes aside, though, it’s Gauthier’s mastery of the small, scene-setting lyrical moment pungent with meaning that really sets her apart as a writer; in the title track, she notes how “the desk clerk don’t look up when I walk by anymore,” and describes a blizzard with the vivid naturalism of “snow is falling on snow that fell on snow.” And although the tempos on all eight tracks of this slow-burning ember of an album never pace faster than a walk, she still rocks the listener with simple yet potent melodies, a voice electric with emotion, and the wisdom that comes from life’s lessons truly learned. — ROB PATTERSON