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Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain (Album Review)

Thursday, 29 March 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Laura E. Partain  

During the early part of her career, Courtney Marie Andrews released a string of under the radar folk albums. If those formative LPs were her caterpillar phase, then 2016’s ‘Honest Life’ began an artistic metamorphosis that’s culminated in ‘May Your Kindness Remain’, a soulful, gospel-tinted record where she’s blossomed into a butterfly.

What’s immediately impressive about this release is the 27-year-old’s refusal to rest on her Laurel Canyon stylings. Instead, she’s fashioned a follow up that, by going in a different direction to the Joni Mitchell-meets-Emmylou Harris sound of its predecessor, marks her out as an artist with a widescreen vision.

Moving on from the acoustic bent of ‘Honest Life’, this album presents modern Americana textures that, buoyed by electric guitar, organ, piano, pedal steel, bass and drums, incorporate blues, rock ‘n’ roll and country alongside southern gospel.

Yet this isn’t evolution for evolution’s sake. It’s all in service to a thematic spine that focuses on ordinary Joes who, having been raised to believe the American dream will deliver fame and fortune, end up battling constant hardships that result in depression and alienation.

From the melodious pop of Kindness of Strangers and laid back Tom Petty grooves on Two Nights in Buffalo, where the economic plight of small towns is painted with wonderful frost-bitten imagery, to Lift The Lonely From My Heart’s vivid account of mental illness, Andrews’ tasteful instrumentation paints America’s crumbling social fabric across a larger canvas while depicting the impact on people with confessional intimacy.

Andrews never explicitly lashes out or points fingers. She’s more interested in how people are affected by socio-political problems and, by telling their stories, allows blame to reside in the subtext. Border finds a desperate immigrant being smuggled into America by a coyote. When she sings “there is always a reason, a story to tell, but you cannot measure a man until you’ve been down the deepest well” it’s impossible not to think about the divisiveness stirred up by a certain wall-building politician.

Although the likes of Took You Up suggest human connection can help deal with such adversity, these songs swerve hippy idealism because Andrews never shies away from reality. She’s not suggesting her answers are a panacea, merely ways to make those universally common situations more bearable. It’s something that’s gifted unimpeachable veracity by her sublime singing.

There’s a healing beauty to Andrews’ tone; a sense of warm compassion, dignified resilience and unbreakable spirit in the face of despondency.  ‘Honest Life’ exhibited her skill as a classic folk crooner, but by adopting a more powerful, and fittingly soulful, delivery on this record her voice, whether creating a diaristic closeness on Rough Around The Edges or belting out the title track’s climactic gospel plea, feels like a light in the darkness.  

Andrews may have previously been dubbed ‘the best songwriter you’ve never heard of’, but if its predecessor began erasing that tag then ‘May Your Kindness Remain’, which oozes confidence and class, will surely render such a line utterly redundant.

Courtney Marie Andrews Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed April 18 2018 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Thu April 19 2018 - EDINBURGH Summerhall
Fri April 20 2018 - DUBLIN Whelans
Sat April 21 2018 - LIVERPOOL Arts Club Liverpool
Sun April 22 2018 - MANCHESTER Gorilla
Mon April 23 2018 - BRIGHTON Komedia
Tue April 24 2018 - LONDON Islington Assembly Hall

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