It may be something of a cliché for an artist to become an ‘overnight success in ten years’, but that’s exactly what happened to Courtney Marie Andrews in 2017 when she released her fourth album, Honest Life. The record won a slew of critical acclaim and topped the UK Americana Charts, whilst Courtney herself won the International Artist of the Year Award at the UK Americana Awards in February. Now she’s back with her latest record, May Your Kindness Remain.
The album opens with the title track, which to me sets the tone brilliantly. The organ intro adds to the rich, sweet tones of Andrews’ vocal, giving the song an old-school bluesy feel. It’s a touching song with a great sense of yearning, and Andrews does a fantastic job of capturing both the sadness and hopefulness of the lyrics. I also really like how the distorted guitars in the bridge change the melody, giving it more of a rock influence, but the organ melody still keeps that gospel influence. I can see this being a huge moment in her live shows in the future.
One thing that really stood out to me throughout the record was Andrews’ gift as a songwriter, whether she’s creating detailed character portraits on the folky Lift The Lonely From My Heart or mourning the death of the American dream on the funky, slinky Two Cold Nights In Buffalo. She’s able to write songs that are intimate yet wide-ranging at the same time and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, particularly on Border with its biting social commentary, discordant, fuzzy guitars and pulsing rhythm.
Andrews’ outstanding vocals are another highlight of the album for me. Reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, her voice is haunting and warm by turns, with an occasional touch of gravel. I was also really impressed by her vocal control. You get the sense that she could really let rip if she wanted to, but she only unleashes the power in her voice on occasion, such as towards the end of the soaring Kindness Of Strangers. That said, she’s great in the more subdued moments too, particularly the romantic Took You Up and the gentle This House, which is full of warmth and love for her home and the memories she’s made there.
One of the standout tracks is Rough Around The Edges. It has a slightly ominous intro which underlies a steady, gospel-influenced organ melody (something which recurs throughout the album) before Andrews’ vocals come in. Whilst her voice swings between sweetness and gravel throughout the song, you can’t deny that she’s putting her heart and soul into it and wringing every drop of emotion out of the knowing, self-aware lyrics. I also really loved the honky-tonk, almost jazzy touches of the piano melody and the cinematic ending to the song. I’ve Hurt Worse is also excellent – Andrews’ vocals come in with a bang and she executes juxtaposition of the optimistic melody and ironic lyrics about a toxic relationship very well.
The album closes with Long Road Back To You, which appropriately has a very lonesome, Wild West feel to its melody. Andrews’ vocals sound sweet and rich as she sings about waiting for her lover to get back to her, and the song feels uplifting due to the addition of the piano flourishes and the steady, persistent beat. I also liked the addition of the gospel choir, echoing back to the title track, and the finish on her vocals and the organ sound is just gorgeous.
Overall May Your Kindness Remain is a wonderful, layered, timeless album. It’s filled with stories that tug at your heartstrings and feels as though it could have easily been released in the 1960s or 1970s as much as today. Andrews is a fantastic storyteller and fills her songs full of emotion, meaning you truly connect with her and her characters. It’s a beautiful record and I can’t wait to hear her perform it live when she tours the UK next month.
Track listing: 1. May Your Kindness Remain 2. Lift The Lonely From My Heart 3. Two Cold Nights In Buffalo 4. Rough Around The Edges 5. Border 6. Took You Up 7. This House 8. Kindness Of Strangers 9. I’ve Hurt Worse 10. Long Road Back To You Record label: Loose Music Release date: 23rd March 2018
See Courtney on her UK tour on the following dates:
Wednesday 18th April – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Thursday 19th April – Summerhall, Edinburgh
Saturday 21st April – Arts Club, Liverpool
Sunday 22nd April – Gorilla, Manchester
Monday 23rd April – Komedia, Brighton
Tuesday 24th April – Islington Assembly Hall, London