August 29, 2018
Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain
About a year ago I bought and reviewed Andrews break through album Honest Life. I was genuinely blown away. Here was a Singer Songwriter in the truest sense of it’s 1970’s genre creation – terrific melodies, remarkable voice, staggering and memorable lyrics, beautiful and sympathetic arrangements. Such a find.
Her latest release May Your Kindness Remain attracted lots of critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic in March this year and you might say that she has arrived. That acclaim is well placed and hasn’t come quickly. Despite being of tender years at 27 years old this is her sixth release. That long hard road has meant that her lyrics dwell on real life: let’s be fair there is generally no money in the peripatetic life of a travelling musician. Her words talk of love and compromise in the most mundane of locations and rooms. She says – “A lot of people are poor in America—and because of those unattainable goals, they’re also mentally unstable, or sad, or depressed or unfulfilled. A lot of people — myself included at some point in my life — are loving somebody through this. That’s sort of the theme of the record: coming to terms with depression and the reality of the world we’re living in.”
One such lament is on “Two Cold Nights In Buffalo” where she’s marooned due to the weather in this large rust belt US town on the border of Canada and the Great Lakes. She talks of the city’s decline and the changing face with its declining middle classes, neighbourhoods and the community that was once nurtured by those who lived there. If you can relate to the song it will last longer in your memory. I cycled through it in July 2015 as I went south in search of America’s music in Nashville, Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Mississippi Delta and New Orleans. The Canadian border post takes you through the centre of the city. There are many streets of demolished and cleared space – the legacy of an industrial manufacturing past that eventually created the rust belt. I cycled through with little to see and whilst there are pockets of prosperity it is a ghost of a city as regards what once made it proud.
“Rough Around The Edges” sees a Carole King piano introduction and Andrews returns to a song of failed lives and love. Joni Mitchell introspection is found in the verse;
“You find beauty in simple things,
In desert sunsets and in movie scenes
I see the flaws in all the in-betweens,
The past was cruel and caught up with me”
“KIndness Of Strangers” sees yet another arrangement to make you swoon. The producer, Mark Howard, has worked with Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan and creates a wonderful backing not least creating spaces in the songs to let her powerful angelic voice shine through like a ray of light. In this song where the soundscape parts she has a female chorus behind her that deliver a Soul/Gospel feel. “I’ve Hurt Worse” contains the key to the lock as regards the message of the song with the line “Mother says we love who we think we deserve” and it makes sense of the lyric where with accordion and ukelele backing she lists her lover’s indifference. Double tracking her voice for harmony is exquisite.
If the album has the consistency needed to make it great then it also contains a complete timeless gem in the title track “May Your Kindness Remain”. She forgives a friend for all her indulgences because she has a good heart. The indulgences are listed with no little exasperation and maybe this is the reality she refers to in the above quote. The voice can soar and in this opener we get a tune to die for.
She’s playing locally in December. I visited the theatre to buy tickets. It felt like a moment when you find under priced treasure in a shop, how lucky are you? I shelled out the cash for two tickets before I feared that I would get a tap on the shoulder and the interloper chuckles and says “Oh you’re joking! You think we still have tickets available for this concert? We sold them decades ago. Do you how how great this artist is?”