Despite not knowing the format this show with Mary Gauthier and Allison Moorer would take, I was excited to see Mary for the second time and Allison for the first. I had no idea the audience would be treated to several of hours of music and witty repartee. I laughed, I cried, and I walked out much richer for having seen this show.
The stage was set simply with two chairs, two mics, and two guitar stands. These two Nashville-based singer-songwriters took the stage, and Allison launched into her first song. I knew nothing about Allison but as soon as the first words poured from her, I realized she is every bit as talented as her sister, Shelby Lynne. Allison released her most recent studio album, Down to Believing, at the beginning of the tour, while Mary released hers, Trouble & Love, in 2014.
Each played her own songs without accompaniment by the other, save for the encore songs where they sang soft backup for each other. Each of their albums is intensely personal, but come from difference perspectives. Mary writes, in songs such as 'When A Woman Grows Cold' and 'How You Learn to Live Alone', of the pain she experienced when a relationship ended badly. Allison's songs sprung from her experience with motherhood, as the mother of a four-year old son with autism. I cried as I listened to her sing 'Mama Let Your Wolf In'. I understood the heartache each of these magnificent women felt.
In between songs, the banter between them was non-stop; in fact, it seemed like Mary almost had to force herself into the next song! Here are some of the lines I noted (when I wasn't too busy laughing):
Allison - "Xanax and a pot of coffee are a housewife's speedball."
Mary - "In another culture, I'd have been a shaman. In this one, I'm a one-person diversity campaign."
Allison - "Sometimes it's line drawings, sometimes it's pharmaceuticals."
Mary is involved with a project called Songwriting with Soldiers, which sponsors workshops giving veterans of any war the opportunity to work with songwriters to put their stories to music. Some of the songs produced at these workshops are available as digital downloads and are also viewable on YouTube. I have been privileged to see Mary perform two of those songs, 'Iraq' and 'Bullet Holes in the Sky'. The power of these songs - and this project - to heal must be profound.
The two shows at Club Passim fell in the middle of their short (eight-city) tour, but hopefully they will tour again. As I said to Mary, it works.