Friday, March 23, 2007

Blues for New Orleans

In a just world, folk singer Mary Gauthier would be making Britney Spears money.

Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where pop music has been kidnaped by teenagers. Instead of hearing adult music informed by hard-earned experience, we’re subjected to smug children rummaging in Mommy and Daddy’s closet and wearing clothes much too big for them.

Sure, they work hard pretending they’re grownups, but how much does Justin Timberlake really know about loss, betrayal and heartache? Or Pink? Or Christine?

Mary Gauthier does. This songwriter from Louisiana has been around the block a few times. In a husky growl sandpapered by shots of whisky, cigarettes, and yelling at the backs of lovers walking out the door, Gauthier sings bleak, unsentimental tales shimmering with a haunting beauty. Drunks, losers, and abused wives live in her songs, and Gauthier’s sorcery keeps these broken people lost in America chillingly authentic. And tragic.

Speaking of tragic, Mary Gauthier’s song “Mercy Now” is a grim soundtrack to this video directed by Demetria Kalodimos. It’s about what happened in New Orleans after Katrina came. What Katrina did was bad. What the government didn’t do (“You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie!”) was worse. Other than making rich people richer, the Bush Administration has been monstrously incompetent. And seeing New Orleans slowly drown as dozens of stupid politicians did nothing but make useless speeches was, and is, an American tragedy that will haunt this country for years.

Because of what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 9/11 aren’t just numbers anymore.

We have new numbers now to think about now: