You could be forgiven for thinking that Courtney Marie Andrews‘ 2017 album Honest Life was her first but this is no overnight success story. What it did embody was an insight into the hardships of being a musician during a ten year career in an ever-changing cultural landscape. The genre-bending style and assured vocals resulted in comparisons to artists such as Emmylou Harris and Laura Marling ensuring an eager sense of anticipation when the follow-up record was announced.
‘Human connection is essential for survival, and I’ve felt that void at so many different points in my life,’ the twenty-seven year old states and this concept is at the heart of May Your Kindness Remain. The record spends ten songs initially lurching through the lonely darkness, visually despondent at times, before arriving at some kind of refined, shared restoration of hope that suggests we’re all capable of rising above the hardships despite what we may bear.
Andrews has traded in some of the musical thrills inherent on her previous album for this veracity but there is a clear progression musically, with the gospel-country tones being particularly redolent throughout. Opening track ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ possesses a civilised, authentic restraint that veers close to tipping over into melodrama at the mid-point but is held in check by gorgeous, gritty guitars and the soft gospel backing vocals.
The first half of the record is a particularly solemn affair but ‘Two Cold Nights in Buffalo’ possesses a sweet groove enhanced by mellow organs and the now-familiar gospel edge which alleviates the pessimistic themes somewhat. ‘Border’ possesses the dry, dangerous spirit of the desert terrain of its setting. An ominous, driving melody is softened by the vivid organ tones which bursts into life, erratic but full of charisma and this is ultimately the most satisfying point of this new record; it’s easy to remain negative, but this new collection of songs has a streak of positivity about them, a glimmer of attitude that does not wallow in a self-indulgent melancholy.
‘I’ve been talked down to for so long, you barely even notice. But finally, I think there’s been an awakening of the collective consciousness. Change is happening,’ says Andrews and by the time we get to the final third of the album the tone has shifted. ‘Kindness of Strangers’ is hopeful, and the cynicism starts to dissipate on ‘I’ve Hurt Worse’ so that by the time we reach final track ‘Long Road Back to You’, the one-way journey hinted at during the first half of the record shifts. It begins to feel like we’ve emerged from a dark tunnel into a new equilibrium that looks something like redemption.
MAY YOUR KINDNESS REMAIN IS RELEASED THIS FRIDAY (23/3) VIA LOOSE.