December 18, 2018
A kind of silent reverence greeted the diminutive Courtney Marie Andrews as she took the stage in front of a sold out crowd in North Yorkshire. Pocklington appears to be the home of Americana in these parts and a good audience is always guaranteed. Andrews’ has been touring for several months now in the USA and Australasia; this was the second date on her UK tour that even takes her to the Shetland Isles. It should have been her third gig but wear and tear on the voice meant missing a night in Birmingham. Resting up in London with friends downing the magic elixir of ginger tea appeared restorative!
Declared fit, she gave us 14 songs mainly from her Honest Life and May Your Kindness Remain releases but, as she said, playing an overseas audience meant she could play some other songs and we were treated to two new songs and a couple of singles that never made an album.
Of course the voice is the draw with that Joni Mitchell sound and a range characterised by raw, at times lonely, emotion and bathos. The lonely comes from the nature of her observational lyrics in which she reflects on people and situations around her. In fact you’d worry that having known her for the last few years that you’d end up in a lyric. Boyfriends beware.
With this in mind she tells the story of a touring musician who declared on their first meeting that she was gay, adding that Andrews wouldn’t therefore want to tour with her. Nothing could be further from the truth as Andrews tells of her own upbringing with a gay parent. “Irene” sets out to fortify her new companion to stride forward and shrug off her doubts and guilt. Similarly we visit the On My Page album with “Pictures From Michael”. The unlikely subject is her incarcerated uncle who sent paintings from his prison up until the privilege was withdrawn (because of his continuing disruptive behaviour). Who could make this up? However, it is an insight into her openness about her life and family with a no holds barred approach.
It seems most American touring artists are unhappy about Trump and inevitably at some point we have the disclaimer. However she handled this thoughtfully by singing about the other side of the immigration argument. “Border” seemed a timely and thought through perspective on those arriving and striving in the USA without a partisan rant.
What became clear was that she is an accomplished musician. On guitar rhythms were strummed, melodies were picked and this accompaniment added to the voice. Switching to keyboards she introduced the unlikely topic of a song about a dog -Tucker. This was a home run in dog loving Britain! “This House” talks of a home albeit not the most organised of abodes but for a travelling musician it is her sanctuary. Sadly Tucker is now buried in the yard.
Toward the end she said that she would not be playing an encore but would take three requests. To my relief she accepted the shout to play “May Your Kindness Remain”, a song about a female free spirit who despite her frailties has a kindness that makes you forgive her excesses. On this song she really let her voice soar and maybe we got a sound that she’d be holding back for fear of undoing her recent rest.
As a person she comes across as serious, independent, hard working and wise for her years. As an artist she comes across as an alchemist with an ability to create melodies and lyrics that beguile. A truly beautiful night and let’s hope she’s back soon.