Rifles & Rosary Beads Named One of NPR’s 50 Best Albums of 2018!
“Few singer-songwriters have mined their own autobiographies with a stronger belief in the unifying potential of human affliction than Mary Gauthier, but she arrived at her most compelling expressions of empathy to date by fixating intently on others' stories. Rifles & Rosary Beads, her eighth proper studio album, was the fruit of songwriting retreats with American military veterans and their spouses and partners; with the participants' permission, what began as a therapeutic exercise led to a riveting collection of testimonies, recollections and vignettes. Gauthier is a tough, almost surly singer who makes her emotional commitment to the material felt, and her choice of producers, and multi-instrumentalist Neilson Hubbard, framed it with bristly folk-rock gravity. The greatest source of the 11 songs' power is how they capture contradictions in excruciating, unshakable detail: the feelings of fierce camaraderie beneath heroic displays of stoicism; the mixture of pride and anguish that service leaves in its wake; the trauma that alienates vets and their loved ones even after they're reunited beneath the same roofs. That degree of attentiveness was an especially needed salve during a year when differences in experience and perspective were treated as unbridgeable, hostility-stoking barriers.”