You could be forgiven for thinking that twenty-six year old Courtney Marie Andrews is a relative newcomer to the burgeoning alt country/Americana scene. An impressive debut on Later…with Jools Holland a few months ago appeared to be the result of the international success of her latest album Honest Life, but this accomplishment fails to recognise the previous five records that have been released, along with her musical collaborations with artists such as Damien Jurado that have no doubt helped to refine her craft.
Very rarely is there an overnight success in this particular genre and Courtney elaborates on this tonight when she reminisces about her previous headline visit to Manchester, which was performed in a small bar on the outskirts of the city in front of just twenty people. What Honest Life has allowed many of us to do however is to discover the delights of Courtney Marie Andrews retrospectively. Through this process of discovery it becomes apparent that her voice can be truly heard on the latest album and there is no better way to start this evening’s show at a sold out Deaf Institute in the heart of Manchester’s university district than with How Quickly Your Heart Mends. The song contains all the best components of the alt-country genre and is immediately defined by the opening lines; ’empty promises and a broken heart, hiding in the bathroom of this bar’ she sings, surrounded by plaintive guitars and a sweet piano. It sounds gorgeous, if a little too familiar; the tone and pace is similar to early Tift Merritt and the vocals on this song in particular can also be compared to the Texan. This is clearly no bad thing however and when Buffalo follows, she introduces the song as a warning about the gentrification of cities in the United States. This brief preface was a pleasing demonstration of her songwriting credentials, proving that she isn’t simply painting by numbers and instead wants to tell stories that are important to her and where she comes from.
Table for One continues the rather downbeat brand of mournful Americana that is so evocative and in Courtney Marie Andrew’s hands, so pleasing to the ear, but the evening is also an opportunity for the Arizona native to introduce several new tracks that will hopefully form the basis of a new album in the near future. A highlight is The Kindness of Strangers which allows Andrews to stretch her vocal skills considerably and is musically a bit more upbeat than the material that preceded it and this appears to be the case for much of the new material, which appears to allow Andrews to express herself with a bit more freedom than the more traditional material may allow.
This variety of styles is one of the most satisfying aspects of the show however and Not the End appears to add a fair dose of traditional English folk to the mix, with her distinct vocals always at the forefront in a song that may be short but is full of sweet confessions which get their hooks into you immediately. Woman of Many Colours confirms the more traditional folk element of Andrews’ material and this ultimately is the root of the evening’s success. Courtney Marie Andrews has managed to weave a multitude of influences across six albums so far, always injecting her own individualism to the themes and lyrics of the songs to ensure that they stay fresh and relevant to a genre that can very easily tip over into the maudlin if not kept in check. At no point does this occur this evening and her new material suggests that she will be a force to reckoned with when the new record comes out. The sooner the better!
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Review and Photos by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto