AUK’s Chain Gang: Mary Gauthier “I Drink”

Following Paul Gibson’s excellent choice last week, of Lincoln Le Fevre’s ‘Hope & Crown’, it seems only right that the next link in this chain is a song about drinking. So, I took a slow look around LeFevre’s pub, thinking about the characters that come here to drink. Over there, carousing with some friends, I see Garth Brooks, telling tales about his high society ex-girlfriend and how he prefers his friends in low places, definitely a beer-drinking crowd. A little further along the bar, Steve Earle’s also with some friends, recounting stories of his Grandaddy’s wartime exploits in London and how he met Steve’s Grandma. It’s a good-natured bunch and Steve’s definitely buying his round; looks like a few of the Pogues are there with him. There’s a table over in the corner where Dale Watson is getting a little confessional, with some close, drinking buddies, about how drink always brings out the more mendacious side of him, but he’s clearly had a few so can you believe him? And who’s that overweight guy with the messy blonde hair lurking just behind him? He looks like he’s taking notes!

It’s a very mixed crowd with plenty of characters and lots of tall tales going on, exactly what you’d expect in most pubs. And then, over in the shadows, I see the lone figure, just sitting and staring at a squat glass. There’s no banter with friends, no discussing the events of the day over a glass or two, this person just comes to drink, to battle their own demons in their own way. There was a time when you could find one in every pub, someone who was there for one reason and one reason only.

“Fish swim, birds fly
Daddies yell, mamas cry
Old men sit and think.
I drink”
.

Mary Gauthier’s songs are often based on her own experiences and this song is clearly autobiographical. Her adoptive father was an alcoholic and Mary has fought her own battles with alcohol but, along with the bleakness this song contains, there’s also a defiance that makes it quite special. She’s not looking for any sympathy or understanding, she’s just stating facts. There’s none of the swagger or bravado that often goes with songs about drinking and alcohol. This is a confessional, but she’s only confessing to herself. ‘I Drink’ – a simple statement of fact. It’s ironic that this song has become her signature tune, given that Gauthier herself has been sober for over thirty years, but it’s a song that beautifully represents the sparseness of her writing and the strength of her songs.

This song comes from Gauthier’s second album, “Drag Queens in Limousines” and it was this album that was her breakthrough recording and established her as a successful singer/songwriter. Mary Gauthier is never easy listening but her songs more than reward any time you invest in listening to them.


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About Rick Bayles 289 Articles
Now living the life of a political émigré in rural France and dreaming of the day I'll be able to sing those Cajun lyrics with an authentic accent!

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