Essential New Music: Mary Gauthier’s “Rifles & Rosary Beads”

Where have all the soldiers gone? American battles once pitted brother against brother and accentuated the gap between parents and children; more recent wars are barely a blip in our nonstop news cycle. If you’re not in one of the ever-shrinking number of military families, you probably don’t know any soldiers, let alone what they’ve been through. Mary Gauthier fills in the blanks with the 11 somber-yet-empathetic songs on Rifles & Rosary Beads.

The perspectives of her co-writers—eight vets and 12 military spouses—aren’t uniform, but they share a common thread of processing trauma and feeling left behind. One standout is “Iraq,” the story of an Army mechanic whose real enemy isn’t the country where she’s been shipped but the men in her own unit who see her body as just one more thing to conquer. By bringing experiences like hers to light, Gauthier does us all a service.

—M.J. Fine