After a lovely evening out last night my Friday has started slow, but that’s OK – I’ve got the day off. I’m looking forward to a three day weekend recharging my batteries, which are feeling a bit run down of late.
Here’s some music!
Disc 1137 is… May Your Kindness Remain
Artist: Courtney Marie Andrews
Year of Release: 2018
What’s up with the Cover? For the second time in a row we have a country artist stretched out on the couch. If my mom saw Courtney stretched out like this she’d probably say “get your shoes off the couch before you tear the upholstery!”
My reaction was…different. Courtney can stretch out on my couch in those shoes anytime she likes.
How I Came To Know It: I absolutely loved Andrews’ 2016 album “An Honest Life” (reviewed back at Disc 1081) to the point where I was giving her a free pass on whatever she released next. This was it.
How It Stacks Up: I have three Courtney Marie Andrews albums, which is all of them. Sadly, I must put “May Your Kindness Remain” in third (aka last) place.
Ratings: 3 stars
While “May Your Kindness Remain” is not the masterpiece that Courtney Marie Andrews’ previous record was, it still has a lot going for it.
Chief among those things are Andrews’ vocals. She reminds me of a classic seventies country singer like Loretta Lynn or Emmylou Harris; sweet with more than a little heartache around the edges.
Andrews is also a gifted songwriter, and “May Your Kindness Remain” has a nice mix of old school country and new school hipster. Her songs have plenty of heartache but there is a thread of optimism wound through the record that warms the heart. Songs like the title track and “Kindness of Strangers” are appeals to community and acceptance. These are songs that ask us to cleave to our better natures, and are filled with hope that strangers will do the same.
Sometimes she goes too far, and on “This House” feels a bit trite with its whole “our house is a home” theme but for the most part she does a great job of taking the tarnished aspects of life and finding beauty in them.
I found “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo” a complicated listen. It’s a great song, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for Buffalo given my hatred of the Buffalo Bills. Courtney Marie Andrews would tell me it’s wrong to hate, but I’m pretty sure I get a pass for the Bills. Bastards. But I digress…
On “Border” Andrews experiments with the blues, and while the song is OK, her sweet vocals aren’t a good match for the grit the blues requires.
My biggest issue with the record is the production. On her previous two records, Andrews goes for a stripped down, stark style which accentuates the power of her singing and songwriting. On “May Your Kindness Remain” she brings in a lot more rock elements, backup singers and lush production. It isn’t bad, but it felt like I had to wade through all that excess to get to the heart of the songs. When I did get there it was worth it, and the album got better on multiple listens, which is a good sign.
The album ends with “Long Road Back To You,” a six minute long mood piece which features some of the best singing on the record. This was one song that benefited from the bigger sound on the record, creating a dreamy quality. This is a song for staring out a rain-streaked window thinking about absent friends and lovers you wish were there with you.
While I might prefer her previous record, it is also fun to watch Andrews’ sound evolve and change. I have a feeling she’ll be around for a long time and I’m looking forward to the continuing journey. Would I buy her next album unheard on the strength of “May Your Kindness Remain”? Yes I would.
Best tracks: May Your Kindness Remain, Two Cold Nights in Buffalo, Rough Around the Edges, Kindness of Strangers, Long Road Back to You