By Joseph Purcell
Released in 2018, May Your Kindness Remain exemplified Courtney Marie Andrews’ gift for emotive songwriting. Its rich, blues guitars, and Andrews’ soulful, country voice was paired with a hymn-like solidity, and it signalled a move towards a more reflective and broad sound, while still retaining the impeccable piano laden ballads, such as Table for One or Honest Life; songs that set Andrews apart from many of her contemporaries. Now, she returns with new record, Old Flowers, which builds on on her previous work, and finds Andrews in career high form – again.
The record is Andrews’ truth. It is her expedition through a nine-year relationship, before the struggle to regroup and stand alone at its conclusion. It is about a woman who is content with her solitude, and more importantly, living by her decisions. Dubbed ‘soul-revealing’ by the artist herself, it is ten tumultuous tracks of doubt, heartbreak, regret and the excruciating choices that one has to make when the realisation that a love you thought was everlasting begins to wane.
Lead single, If I Told, is a flawless opening statement. Andrews’ voice, equal parts enchanting and uneasy, evokes the mood of the prose it conveys. Its focus is a conversational flow with her partner – ‘you’re my last thought at the end of each day’. Andrews is questioning, doubting, the sincerity of her partners answers, while lamenting the depths of her feelings – ‘You’re so magnetic, I am hypnotised/Feels like I’ve known you since before this life,‘ she sings, before conceding, ‘Here’s to wondering if you feel the same/but I can tell when your eyes meet mine, that the truth isn’t your reply.’
Andrews has a tremendous gift for weaving subtle, yet intricate images throughout her lyrics. The record sees her cast herself as guide on an intimate voyage of relationship regret, with a rueful glance to what could have been. On It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault, she reflects, ‘It’s been years since we talked… How have we grown apart as we did?‘ Her dismay projected to the sound of delicately picked guitar notes, bounding drums and a vocal that, as ever, warms the heart. Her subtle blend of country and Americana works with exquisite results.
On a record of highlights, the closing duo of How You Get Hurt and Ships in the Night are perhaps its finest. They embody its soul and its permeating message: people can fall in love, grow, change and drift apart. Firstly, the piano driven, How You Get Hurt, is the moment of reflection. Andrews is alone, desolate, not wishing to hurt anyone, but knowing the excruciating cost of the hardest decisions that must be made. The result is a desolate, haunting masterpiece. The latter is a bold statement of freedom and resolution. Chronicling the angst and anguish of a break up, the record’s final chapter sees her moving on, free of the baggage and set for her future. Her final communication confesses – ‘I’m sending you a postcard from the United States/With words on the back I never got chance to say/When it soars across that pond and reaches your house/May it leave you with closure and a little less doubt’. She has moved forward, away from the turmoil and suffocation captured in earlier tracks such as Guilty, as she states ‘the person that I used to be seems so far away…I’m sending you my love and nothing more.’
On Old Flowers, Courtney Marie Andrews has taken her experience and owned it – channelling it into a remarkable record. She expertly describes her torment and angst – each song its own story – yet all is brought together as one. Rather than leaving her past behind, Andrews is moving forward, in control, on her own terms.
Secret Meeting score: 86
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