The Fred Eaglesmith discussion list was abuzz with news of Mary Gauthier; so I decided to pick up her disc & see what all the fuss was about. Dixie Kitchen is about the most down home that country's likely to get. Mary didn't go to opera class to learn how to sing country; she doesn't pull any punches; she lays it on the line; and lays it down clean. "When you're 10 years old, it's cute to be a tomboy, but in a couple of years you gotta deal with the ways of the world," she sings on the opener, shouting out, "Sorry, Mom," as her live wire acoustic guitar sails through the song. The breakup song "I Don't Know Nothin' About Love" is a track that went past me the first few times with this CD, but now is one of my favorite tunes. "The Other Side of Free" with its slow mandolin is pretty good. In a most unlikely country setting, Gauthier does a real good job on the anti-AIDS ballad "Goddamn HIV." "I've been a queer since the day I was born," she sings from a gay man's point of view recounting the ravages of that brutal disease. "Old Love Never Dies" is a soft song that she as much moans as sings. "You're All I Wanna Do" is a lustful country tune with a bouncy guitar line, "Sexual satisfaction turned into a chicken fight." Matt Leavenworth's gorgeous fiddle enhances the simple melody of "Ever Easy," "I don't want to leave you; and I don't want to stay; I don't want to keep going on this way." "Skeleton Town" is a peppy little tune about terminal illnesses. In "Rock & Roll Lies" Gauthier references Jack Kerouac, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley & Jim Morrison with a vocal holler straight from Hank Williams, "What's left when the glory consumes you & you can't tell the truth from the lies, while the one thing you still believe in, you must sell to whoever will buy." She nails the contradictions of popularity and commercialism. The CD concludes with country hoedown "Mama Louisiana." Mary Gauthier's music is rustic, rough edged, not perfect pitched -- she won't be doing duets with Celine Dion. But on Dixie Kitchen, she sings with honesty; her music is about something; and the musicianship is first rate. U snooze U lose!