Not a lot of fun, but it tells a very sad story with bleak eloquence.
Nick Barraclough 2010
Songwriting as catharsis is clearly effective. Otherwise why would it have been done by the likes of Lucinda Williams, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and so many others, so successfully?
Their trick has been to make it accessible to an audience that has not had the same life experiences, who might not even be able to empathise with the writer’s emotions. We didn’t have a clue what Taylor’s Fire and Rain was about, but it sounded nice; Williams’ Side of the Road was a bit on the elliptical side, but there was an attractive wistfulness about it.
No such concessions here. Mary Gauthier is straightforward about who this album is aimed at. She dedicates it to “… all adoptees, birth mothers, birth fathers and adoptive parents who still suffer”. I think they might make up the majority of those who go for The Foundling.
Mary was abandoned by her mother at birth. This collection of songs describes her trying to come to terms with her adoption, and, when she reached the age of 45, her search for her birth mother. She found her, and they spoke briefly on the phone, but her mother refused to see her. The desolation she felt as a result is palpable through her sharp, dry and occasionally bitter lyrics. She pulls no punches.
Producer Michael Timmins, of Cowboy Junkies, sets these lyrics and their melodies, which come right out of the Appalachian Mountains, in a context which is predominately acoustic, sparse and minimal. And it couldn’t be any other way. The Foundling isn’t a lot of fun, but it tells a very sad story with bleak eloquence.