thu 30/03/2017

CD: Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life

CD: Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life

Arizona country singer breaks through with collection of spare, poetic originals

She settles on image after image that distil the hurt and loneliness of break-up

The heartbreak of poor, rural America has an urgent topicality for the first time in decades. Wisely, country singer Courtney Marie Andrews has left her views on the Mexican wall unspoken, but on the other staples of folkloric woe she proves to be unexpectedly eloquent. Still only in her mid-twenties, this is technically Andrews’ sixth album, though her first in the limelight. It’s a gem.

Musically, the sound is conventional, perhaps self-consciously so, with giddy portions of pedal steel, glistening close-harmony backing vocals, and Andrews' own bubblegum drawl. The album’s exceptional quality lies in the unnerving insight and realism of Andrews’ lyrics. Without flaunting her wordsmithery, she settles on image after image, all authentic and everyday, that distil the hurt and loneliness of break-up. So, “Table For One” a meditation, simple but aching with melancholy, about someone “a little bit lonely, a little bit stoned”, who drifts into town with no one to wait for. “15 Highway Lines” is about a brilliant observation of the amount of time it takes on a “highway stretch... it took to think of you”. So ordinary, yet so striking.

A Joni Mitchell comparison has been drawn in some quarters, but Andrews isn’t ready for that yet: she’s still a country music product, without - at this stage - Mitchell’s all-round originality. It’s as if she’s using the genre to grow as a musician, perhaps before breaking cover into something unique. She takes what works from the country genre, but transcends the cliches, and at this rate, will rapidly outgrow the aesthetic of rustic twee. Her marketing, all frills, tassels and grainy portraits, suggests a golden, Gram Parsons age of early-Seventies country, but Andrews’ quality is simpler than that, and doesn’t need that sort of marketing schtick. Apparently written in the aftermath of a break-up, this album has the luminous perceptiveness of a songwriter who sees in the ordinary surroundings of the diner and the road trip the essence of both love and desolation.    

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