Over the course of eight studio albums, acclaimed singer/songwriter/author Mary Gauthier has firmly planted herself as a truth-telling troubadour unafraid to address situations and evoke emotions many find difficult to articulate. On her new album, Dark Enough to See the Stars (out June 3), she mourns the loss of dear friends John Prine, Nancy Griffith, and David Olney. Gauthier also travels a slightly different course by offering an optimistic side of herself with songs that celebrate the joy of new love and personal contentment.
Dark Enough to See the Stars is the follow up to Gauthier’s powerful 2018 release, Rifles & Rosary Beads, cowritten with U.S. veterans and their families to help them cope with the trauma experienced both abroad and at home. In 2021 she released her first book, Saved By A Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting.
She shares her seven top spiritually uplifting songs.
1. “I Believe in You” by Bob Dylan
This song helps me stay committed to my convictions, no matter who dismisses them or laughs at what I believe. There are times when we all must stand alone—this is the song for those moments. It always refuels my strength.
They ask me how I feel
And if my love is real
And how I know I’ll make it through
And they, they look at me and frown,
They’d like to drive me from this town,
They don’t want me around
‘Cause I believe in you
2. “I’ll Take You There” by Al Bell; sung by The Staple Singers
The song helps me believe, no matter what. Believe we will be taken there, by a power that we cannot name. Al Bell wrote the song in a mental fog after his younger brother had been murdered; just after the funeral the words of the song came to him. With Mavis Staples singing the lead, I listen, and I believe. Her voice takes me there. Amen.
Oh, mmm, I know a place
Ain’t nobody cryin’
Ain’t nobody worried
Ain’t no smilin’ faces, mmm, no no
Lyin’ to the races
Help me, come on, come on
Somebody, help me now (I’ll take you there)
Help me, y’all (I’ll take you there)
Help me now (I’ll take you there)
3. “Heroes” by David Bowie
This song is my go-to when I need to remember that love is the most powerful force—that love is what allows for the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. It is love that makes a hero a hero.
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day
4. “The River” by Bruce Springsteen
I go down to the river in my dreams, looking for a place that will not let me down. The ability to dream, no matter what, is a triumph.
I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet, down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
5. “Time (The Revelator)” by Gillian Welch
We do not belong to time. Every time I listen to it, I am reminded that my soul does not belong to my body. It belongs to nothing temporal. Robert Plant puts it even better: Time (The Revelator) is “a masterpiece of the infinite.”
Queen of the fakes and imitators
Time’s the revelator
6. “We Belong Together” by Ricky Lee Jones
A lover, a woman, is confronting a lover who has betrayed her. You’ve hurt me, you need to know I know that. But you also need to know I know you better than anyone in the world, and you, me. We belong together, even if you cannot see that, even if you walk away, you cannot fully leave because we belong together.
But a sailor just takes a broad down to the dark end of the fair
To turn her into a tattoo
That will whisper
Into the back of Johnny’s black hair
And now Johnny the King walks these streets without her in the rain
Lookin’ for a leather jacket
And a girl who wrote her name forever
A promise that
We belong together
We belong together
7. “Orphan Train” by Julie Miller
Come refugees left homesick for
Some place you’ve never known
Here princes paupers criminals
And saints are all the same
No more or less than
God’s beloved child aboard this train
Come ride, ride on the orphan train
We are all homesick orphans sometimes, at the station, waiting for the train. Some know it, some will find out soon enough. The train is coming, all will be welcome, and we will go home. Together.
Keep the music playing with Hayes Carll’s seven spiritually uplifting songs.