Dark Enough to See the Stars is what we call a happy album for Mary Gauthier—the happiest album in her career, recorded at the happiest time in her life. At 60, she’s enjoying a four-year relationship with Jaimee Harris, relishing a post-pandemic return to touring, and writing songs that find a sweet spot between sad/happy and happy/sad.
The album opens with the anthemic “Fall Apart World,” co-written with Harris, which celebrates an escape from the past (“No more waiting/ no more searching/ no more drifting/ no more alone”) and an unlikely entry into the present (“You’re my girl/ in this broken heart/ fall apart world”). It’s a story of redemption, and strumming a 1950 Gibson J-45, Gauthier has never sounded more confident, glowing in the warm, folk-rock support from Neilson Hubbard (drums; he also produced), Fats Kaplin (pedal steel), Danny Mitchell (organ, piano), Michael Rinne (bass), and Juan Solorzano (electric guitar).
The mood continues with “Amsterdam” and “Thank God for You,” and even when it shifts mid-album, there’s an underlying hopefulness that carries through to the end. It leavens the weariness of “The Meadow,” about still feeling the need to run, and “Dark Enough to See the Stars,” about feeling loved in the midst of mourning for songwriter friends Justin Townes Earle, Nanci Griffith, David Olney, and John Prine. And though so much of the album deals with loss, there’s a buoyancy in these arrangements and an honest, hard-won optimism in the writing.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.