What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
The first time I heard John Prine sing “Sam Stone” I knew that something inside me'd shifted. I knew I'd heard something that altered the world as i knew it. John's unique voice, his writer’s voice, cracked me open to see the possibilities that existed when you combine country music and folk music. For me, it was life changing, and deal changing. The love of humanity in that song, the love he breathed into those four-and-a-half minutes for that veteran/junkie, is breathtaking. Every time I sit down to write a song, I try to write one as good as “Sam Stone.”
It made me cry, it made me feel, it made me see how war can destroy the soul, the family, and the nation. It opened my mind to the way a story song works, and the power of a story song. "There's a hole in daddy's arm, where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose" might be the saddest and truest lines ever written. They are as big as a novel, a movie.... a peace movement. I saw the power of language combined with melody. I saw my future when I heard “Sam Stone”—I saw my life's work. I had to find a way to try and write that well, no matter what.
This is one of the best "life-changing art" responses I've received, but knowing Mary Gauthier's work—with all its sensitivity, integrity, and instensity—I'm not surprised. And it's a wonderful tribute to the great John Prine. Gauthier has an excellent new album, Live at Blue Rock, and if you're not familiar with her work, it's a great place to start. Tonight, she performs at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg. Show time is 7:30 pm.