Category Archives: Courtney Marie Andrews

Courtney Marie Andrews in Philadelphia, 5/9/2017

At the Boot & Saddle in South Philly last night, Courtney Marie Andrews delivered as magical and mesmerizing a set as I’ve witnessed during my 30+ years of concert-going. The 15 songs explored the highways, byways, colors and hues of heartbreak, heartache, life and death, and did so with deftness and charm. What blew me away as much as her lyrics and melodies: the clarity and power of her voice, which soars and swoops through the soul like no other.

In between songs, while tuning her guitar (which was replete with new strings), she shared stories about their inspirations and, too, her life experiences, from writing “Heart and Mind” at a truck stop following the 2016 election to interacting with the colorful characters she met while tending bar for a time. “Honest Life,” she explained, was heard as a gospel song by Jools Holland, who asked to play it with her when she appeared on his Later show in England.

The song, as does the Honest Life album as a whole, echoes the past while remaining rooted in the present; it’s an example of the amalgamation I referenced in my review, merging a myriad of influences into a unique and singular whole. It blows my mind every time I listen to it, in other words, and – live – it did so, again.

Other highlights included her first “funny” song, which was charming and droll. Some of the lyrics, as autographed by Courtney, are to the left.

“Put the Fire Out,” which closed the main portion of the set, was simply amazing:

That was to be the night’s last song, but after cajoles from the crowd she debuted a song she’d yet to perform live – no title was given, but the chorus mentions a “Long, Long Road.” Like the night’s previous 14 songs, one can hear the clarion call of the generations in it, from the tunes mined by A.P. Carter in the Appalachian mountains to the folk-country stylings of First Aid Kit.

Years from now, my hunch is that the 50-or-so folks in attendance will have ballooned to 1000 or more, as that many will lay claim to have been present. It will be the stuff of Philadelphia lore, akin to Joni playing the 2nd Fret coffeehouse on Rittenhouse Square in the late 1960s or Bruce, Jackson and Bonnie playing the Main Point in the early ‘70s. (That may seem hyperbolic, but…it is what it is.)

Here’s the set – with a few caveats. She didn’t mention song titles, so the “funny song” and night’s final song have what I think they may be called in parentheses; I’m likely wrong. I also am not familiar with the moving song she sang for her aunt, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer as she was writing it (she’s since rebounded and the cancer is nearly gone).

  1. Seaside Town
  2. Not the End
  3. Rookie Dreaming
  4. Table for One
  5. Heart and Mind
  6. Woman of Many Colors
  7. How Quickly the Heart Mends
  8. Honest Life
  9. 15 Highway Lines
  10. Irene
  11. Funny Song (“Drunk Needs a Drink”?)
  12. Song for Aunt
  13. Let the Good One Go
  14. Put the Fire Out
  15. New Song (“Long, Long Road”?)

Also: the Dove & the Wolf, who opened, were simply magnificent. We’re looking forward to seeing them again.

Afterwards, Courtney was kind enough to meet with fans and sign autographs, and posed for a picture with me – kinda like beauty and the beast, now that I look at it. (And I was so high from the performance that I forgot to get the Honest Life album, which I bought on vinyl, autographed! Next time, hopefully.)

And, last: Philly fans should note that Courtney will be back in town on November 2nd, when she opens for Hamilton Leithauser at the Union Transfer.

Today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. XIX

I’m forever shocked when I read or hear someone about my 50-plus age (give or take a decade) trash the collective talent of today’s younger artists. Here’s the truth: There is much good-to-great music being made by new and relatively new singers and bands, just as there always has been. Courtney Marie Andrews, for instance:

If I’ve listened to Honest Life once, I’ve listened to it 200 times in the past few months. But you’re forgiven (somewhat) if you haven’t heard of her. It’s become easier and easier to miss up-and-coming acts due to our ever-splintering, niche-driven pop culture.

The highways and byways of popular music are littered with artists who failed to breakthrough to the big time, of course. Talent alone has never guaranteed success – luck and circumstance, and drive, play and have always played a major role. That said, below are a handful of new and relatively new-to-me singers and bands, some of whom I’ve featured before – and others that I will again.

1) Hannah’s Yard – “Close Enough.” Hannah’s Yard is an acoustic collective from the English town of Olney, Buckinghamshire, that features a lead singer, Hannah Layton Turner, whose voice is that of an angel. Their songs remind me of Melody Gardot and Norah Jones, among others, and are quite addictive. (Their debut album, Beginnings, is due out May 12th.)

2) Holly Macve – “The Corner of My Mind.” The bayou by way of Brighton? Yep. Macve mixes moodiness, melody and mesmerizing vocals into a tasty elixir.

3) Natalie Gelman – “Photograph.” The singer-songwriter and her band had the good fortune of opening for Bon Jovi recently thanks to Bon Jovi’s opening-act contest. (That’s something more veteran acts should be doing.) Here’s video of the final song of their set:

4) Bully – “Trying.” At last week’s Juliana concert, we met a cool dude who’d flown in from Detroit to attend Juliana concerts in Cambridge, Philly and Virginia. He recommended this band, who he’s seen a dozen times – and, after listening to them a bit, I hear what he hears in them.

5) Fazerdaze – “Lucky Girl.” New Zealand’s Amelia Murray, aka Fazerdaze, is a wonder – I’d say she creates teenage symphonies to God, but given that she’s in her 20s…she creates twenty-something symphonies to God. (Here’s an excellent profile of her.) One listen and you should be hooked.

And two bonuses…

6) The Courtneys – “Silver Velvet.” The Vancouver trio conjure the Bangles with their jangly pop, but, at the end of the day, influences mean nothing if the songs suck. Theirs don’t. If anything, their music sticks in the head like bubblegum on the sidewalk. (Maybe that’s not the best metaphor. But they’re damn good.)

7) Jen Gloeckner – “Row With the Flow.” Gloeckner’s latest release, VINE, is an atmospheric (and very trippy) outing that channels the likes of Mazzy Star and Pink Floyd, among others.

Today’s Top 5: Courtney Marie Andrews on YouTube

Through the decades, I can count but a handful of albums that have been as consistently intoxicating as Courtney Marie Andrews’ Honest Life has been for me over these past few months. I’m trading a tad in hyperbole with that lede – there have been dozens, if not more, such albums – but it is in a select group. (My full review of it can be found here.) On my old site, I used to write that “it takes you there, wherever there is” about certain songs, albums and performances – such is the case here. No matter my mood, or the pressures of the day, listening to it lifts me up.

One such moment: when the backup vocals come in for the “rock ’n’ roll at the Blue Moon Tavern” line in “Put the Fire Out.” It’s a perfect accent on a perfectly crafted song.

In the first YouTube clip below, Courtney talks about how she produced the album herself and, because she was self-funding the endeavor, recorded it in three or four days – too fast to foul anything up, really, or get too fancy. The result placed the focus where it should always be: the songs.

Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5: Courtney Marie Andrews on YouTube – a roundup of clips and performances well worth watching from start to finish.

1) … on Radio 91 KRCB FM , April 7th, 2017. An enlightening interview (on the road vs. being home: “you’re in a constant state of not being content”) and in-studio performances of “Put the Fire Out” and “Table for One.”

2) … @ Rough Trade West April 12th, 2017. An in-store appearance that features a very nice set: “Sea Town,” “This Is Not the End,” “Put the Fire Out,” “Table for One” and “Irene.”

3) … @ The Social (Part 1), March 6th, 2017. A great set in London.

4) … @ The Social (Part 2), March 6th, 2017. And a great conclusion to the set!

5) Honest Life (complete album).