Tag Archives: May Your Kindness Remain

First Impressions: Courtney Marie Andrews’ May Your Kindness Remain

For decades, just about, I usually rolled out of bed in the predawn, gulped coffee while browsing the news (and newsfeed) or working on my website/blog, and departed for the office some two hours later, right around 7:30am. I maintained that early-to-rise routine on weekends, too – even if we were out late the night before. It was just the way of my life. These days, however? Most weekdays, I wake late, don’t turn on the computer until the night, and barely glance at my iPhone until I arrive at the office around 8:30am. So it was somewhat serendipitous that I fired up the MacBook this past Thursday morning – albeit for just 10 minutes – and discovered, by way of Facebook, that NPR’s First Listen was none other than Courtney Marie Andrews’ May Your Kindness Remain album, which is due out on March 23rd.

I streamed it during the commute that followed, and found myself – for the first time ever, I think – cursing what was an atypical easy ride. The lack of slowdowns, accidents, or debris on the highway made it appear that I’d arrive at work before the album ended. (Thankfully, my fear was for naught: a jam at the Valley Forge exit, where some 10 lanes narrow into two, caused me to pull into my company’s parking lot about five minutes after the 43-minute listen had ended.)

I played it again that evening. And again this morning – times four. Not enough listens for a proper review, but enough to share my first impressions. Which are:

Unlike Honest Life, which was – by and large – a fairly stripped-down affair, the 10 songs here are fleshed out with organ, electric guitar, and Sweet Inspirations-esque backing vocals. A gritty guitar often reverberates, sawing through songs – such as the title track or “Took You Up” – like a serrated blade through softwood lumber. (Wood houses, for those unaware, are framed with what’s known as softwood.)

Now that I think about it, however, that’s an imperfect metaphor, as the song structures are beyond solid. The guitar does no damage, in other words; rather, it acts more like an accent or umlaut, fleshing out the sound and emotions. So, shifting to a more apt analogy, the sonic stew conjure the likes of Dylan (both Bob and Thomas), Joni, Lucinda, and the Band, plus – especially on “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo” – Iris DeMent. (“Livin’ in the Wasteland of the Free” is calling out to be covered in concert, Courtney. Just sayin’.)

But, mostly, the echoes are just that – echoes. Courtney synthesizes those (real or imagined) influences into a tasty gumbo of her own.

Lyrically, she makes the universal personal and the personal universal. Whether or not she lived the experiences, “Lift the Lonely From My Heart,” “Rough Around the Edges” and “Took It Up” sound like the confessions of a battered soul. (From “Took It Up”: “Is it the journey or the destination/is this love or is this addiction/circumstances are meant to be/what does that say about you and me?”) The piano intro in “Rough Around the Edges” – which is just a stellar song – is akin to a soft wind carrying the melody of a long-ago tune, though which one I can’t yet identify. On the flip side, she sounds contented in “This House,” which – though it’s not much of a house – she considers a home.

I’ll have more on it in the coming weeks. But this much I can say now: Once the album drops next week, I’ll be playing it over and over, and over, again.

(It’s available for purchase here, by the way.)


Today’s Top 5: Ephemeral Musings (aka CMA 2018)

In part, it’s the starkness of the “Near You” video that gets me. Shot in 2013 at a Manchester club, Courtney Marie Andrews perches on a chair, and leans from the darkness into a spotlight that seemingly cuts through unseen clouds like a god ray. In larger part, however, it’s the sheer hypnotic quality of her vocal, which cuts through the quagmire of YouTube compression like a luminous murmur. And, too, it’s the lyrics themselves, which spin a tale of unfettered love.

When she released the song as a single in the fall of 2017, seven years (or so) after she wrote it, Courtney explained that it’s “about loving someone without expectations or ego. I wrote this song when I was 20 years old. At that time, I was still learning about that kind of love, and I suspect writing this song helped me understand that. Real adult love is loving yourself enough to love someone without expectations. ‘Near You’ explores themes of a flawed person who loves another flawed person, but doesn’t beg them to change.”

I’d like to say that I discovered the video not long after I read the reviews of Honest Life in Uncut and Mojo on the same afternoon in February 2017, when I began a mad dash through YouTube’s many CMA clips. But, in truth, I stumbled upon it this past Thursday night, not long after listening to Courtney Marie’s latest offering, the title tune to her forthcoming May Your Kindness Remain album. It was next up on the algorithmic block.

The organ, dirty guitar and gospel accents of “May Your Kindness Remain” jell together like a spicy gumbo cooked up inside a big pink house in Woodstock. (That’s an admittedly awkward reference to the Band’s Music From Big Pink LP, I hasten to add, not the John Mellencamp song.) As I wrote Thursday night, it bodes well for the album as a whole – which, I should mention, is available for pre-order over at Courtney’s Bandcamp page.

Here’s another song slated to be on the album, “Long Road Back to You,” which I recorded at last year’s Boot & Saddle show. To my ears then and now, it could well be a song A.P. Carter mined in the hills of Appalachia during the 1920s.

It’ll be interesting to hear the album version, and whether it’s fleshed out with a band and backup singers. As-is, however, it’s a mesmerizing song. As is this one, “It Keeps Going,” from her 2013 album On My Page:

Unfortunately, life being life, I don’t have as much time to explore the highways and byways of YouTube as I’d like. I deep-dive when possible, especially when devising a Top 5, but by and large…I often wind up surprised years after I should’ve been – such as by this cover of “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Written by the legendary songwriters Chips Moman and Dan Penn, it was first recorded by Aretha Franklin on her I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You album…

…and covered by a whole host of classic acts, including the Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1969 debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin. (That was the first version I heard, actually, by way of the double-LP Close Up the Honky Tonks collection, which I picked up on April 27, 1984, when I was 18.)

I contemplated concluding with a flourish of words but, instead, I’ll simply circle back to the song at the start, “Near You.” The single version released last September is as stunning as that solo performance from long ago – and, though we didn’t know it, a precursor of things to come. Sonically speaking, it shares quite a bit with “May Your Kindness Remain,” including a guitar roaring and soaring its way into the melody.

Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

This week has seen me spinning like a top that just won’t stop. First came Juliana Hatfield’s official announcement of her long-awaited (by me, at least) ONJ tribute album

… and then, yesterday, Courtney Marie Andrews released the title track of her forthcoming album, May Your Kindness Remain, which hits stores on March 23rd – a day before she plays the Boot & Saddle in South Philly. (Her seemingly never-ending tour continues, in other words.)

(To pre-order the album, head over to her Bandcamp page. It’s available as a download, limited-edition rose vinyl or CD.)

There’s much good to be said about the song, and NPR’s Brittany McKenna does just that, though her assessment that the “American Dream is becoming murkier by the day” is, I think, somewhat off. In truth, as a skim through history shows, the Dream has ebbed and flowed since the term was first popularized during the Great Depression. That decade-long economic downturn saw the unemployment rate rise to almost 25 percent – and in some parts of the country, double and triple that number. Some said the Dream was dead. Yet a generation – the Greatest Generation by every metric – soldiered on.

During the tumult of the 1970s, which included Kent State, Watergate, oil crises, double-digit inflation and rising unemployment, among other ills, there were also whispers that the Dream was over. And those whispers turned to shouts during the early 1990s, right around the time Philadelphia Inquirer journalists Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele published America: What Went Wrong, an excellent tome that detailed how the economic deck had been stacked against common folks during the prior decades.

And yet, just like a Dusty Rhodes wresting match, the Dream refused to give up or be pinned. He shook off the cobwebs, tossed the bad guy into the ropes and hit him with a bionic elbow when he bounced back. Times may be tough. They often are, and always are for someone, somewhere. But a comeback is, as it always is, mere moments away. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that.

Hope and optimism are necessary ingredients in any and all ages, in other words. To quote former president Barack Obama, “Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

But to the song: “May Your Kindness Remain” bodes well for the album as a whole. I like the droning organ at the song’s start, the backing vocals, and the guitar that slices like a dull machete into the mix midway through. And, too, there’s Courtney’s impassioned vocals (which I can’t wait to hear live)…and the lyrics. What matters isn’t the money or things we accrue, though it’s better to have some than none, but the love, kindness and respect we accord one another. It’s the intangibles that count most in life.

Just my thoughts.