RIYL: Angel Olsen, Holly Macve, Joana Serrat
Label: Fat Possum
In between playing 117 shows last year, Courtney Marie Andrews managed to make time to record her new album titled May Your Kindness Remain. Much of the new album was written when Courtney was on the road but she says that the new album ‚Äúit‚Äôs not a road record like its predecessor.‚ÄĚ Instead she say it was inspired by the people she met along her travels.¬† Many of her songs depict ‚Äúcomplex people and places with all too common struggles.‚ÄĚ May Your Kindness Remain was produced by Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, and Willie Nelson), and features a great set of session players. Courtney has an amazing voice and that is full force on the title track/lead single. It is a slow building track with some beautiful gospel harmonies and a bit of fuzzed out guitar. Check it out below.
So far, there are two limited variants, a ‘Pink Rose’ version you can pick up directly from Courtney or the Fat Possum web store (limited to 300)¬†and a gold variant that will be sold at independent record stores.
Courtney Marie Andrews spent over nine months of 2017 on the road, with multiple trips across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. That‚Äôs nothing new for Andrews, though. She‚Äôs been touring relentlessly since leaving her Arizona hometown at 16. It‚Äôs a life that inspired much of her 2016 breakthrough album, Honest Life. While that album‚Äôs themes spoke to the isolation and rootlessness inherent in a life on the road, most of its songs were actually written during an intentional, extended break. The success that followed its release, however, didn‚Äôt afford her the same break to write the material for her new album.
Although May Your Kindness Remain was predominately written on the road -- in the van, in hotels, and in the homes of family and friends -- it‚Äôs not a road record like its predecessor. That is, it‚Äôs not so much inspired by her life on the road so much as it is by the people she‚Äôs met along the way. It‚Äôs an inward reflection on the connectivity of their stories and her own. ‚ÄúMore than anything,‚ÄĚ she says, ‚Äúit got me thinking about my childhood, and the people around me that I‚Äôve known, and the stories that come from my family. It became clear how many people are struggling through the same issues.‚ÄĚ
May Your Kindness Remain is full of vivid depictions of complex people and places with all too common struggles. Much of the album deals with the psychological and relational impact of the unrealistic picture of success that is so embedded in modern American culture.
‚ÄúPeople are constantly chasing that bigger life. A lot of people are poor in America -- and because of those unattainable goals, they‚Äôre also mentally unstable, or sad, or depressed or unfulfilled. A lot of people -- myself included at some point in my life -- are loving somebody through this. That‚Äôs sort of the theme of the record: coming to terms with depression and the reality of the world we‚Äôre living in. Mental illness is a taboo in this culture -- or not taken seriously. I‚Äôve grown up around it a lot, and sort of feel like I understand it from all sides.‚ÄĚ
There are no simple answers in these songs. There‚Äôs just an acknowledgment of our shared hardships and a call for empathy. Despite its characters‚Äô burdens, May Your Kindness Remain isn‚Äôt downtrodden. There‚Äôs a defiance built into its melancholy, a sense that even the most complicated problems are worth facing -- a sentiment that also explains why the album‚Äôs music refuses to stay within any rigid sonic boundaries.
While Andrews self-produced Honest Life, she knew this one had to be different. To record May Your Kindness Remain, her restless side took over. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs very characteristic to how I work -- I need to be shaken up,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI was like, ‚ÄėI need to change something, and create something different, and push myself in a different direction. I knew I wanted to make a more modern, unique sounding record.‚ÄĚ
She found that direction thanks to a bit of serendipity. All at once, she began noticing Mark Howard‚Äôs name on several of her favorite records. She was consistently drawn to the resonant depth of the sound and tone in the albums he had done with luminaries like Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Tom Waits. With nothing to lose, her manager messaged him about producing the new record.
The inquiry was a success: months later, Andrews and her band found themselves in a rented house in Los Angeles, overlooking the city‚Äôs skyline, making May Your Kindness Remain with Howard at the helm. ‚ÄúI wanted to make a record in L.A.,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúIn that house, overlooking a city that epitomizes both America‚Äôs diversity and also the commonality of very real struggles against often unrealistic hopes and dreams.‚ÄĚ
Andrews recalls Howard saying that he liked ‚Äúmaking records that you can live in.‚ÄĚ To her, it felt intuitive, natural and spontaneous -- an extension of the songwriting process that went into these songs. Howard, Andrews and the band lived in that house for eight days, barely fitting it in between two tours. As is Howard‚Äôs custom, the house was the studio. He brought all the gear, recording everyone in the same room to a live board, live off the floor. ‚ÄúA lot of the record is either the first take or we did just one overdub,‚ÄĚ Andrews says. ‚ÄúNothing‚Äôs overthought.‚ÄĚ The band set up in a circle, watching each other across the room as they played each song live.
As a result, the album sounds intimate and warm, as if listeners are in the house with them, watching it all unfold. While May Your Kindness Remain is Andrews‚Äô fullest sounding record to date, the songs and her vocals are never eclipsed. ‚ÄúMark‚Äôs really good about stripping the song down to the bones, and asking, ‚ÄėWhere is the song in this? And how do we make the song come out while still having great instrumentation?‚Äô‚ÄĚ Andrews recalls.
Still, the album‚Äôs arrangements are meticulous. Unlike the predominantly acoustic guitar based Honest Life, May Your Kindness Remain builds around Andrews‚Äô songs with heavy lead guitar (Dillon Warnek) and keys riffs (Daniel Walker, Charles Wicklander). Having played with Andrews for years, the rhythm section (Alex Sabel, bass; William Mapp, drums, percussion) fills the sound as naturally as you‚Äôd expect. There was no click track for Mapp, adding to the album‚Äôs sentient, live feel.
Every instrument and sound on the album has their proper place, across diverse styles: proud piano ballads (‚ÄúRough Around the Edges‚ÄĚ); easygoing, country-tinted rock (‚ÄúKindness of Strangers‚ÄĚ); and biting, sarcastic folk gems (‚ÄúI‚Äôve Hurt Worse‚ÄĚ). Gospel singer C.C. White adds backing vocals throughout, including on the stunning title track, a striking statement of purpose that blooms at the end thanks to layers of soulful harmonies. ‚ÄúWhen C.C. was singing her parts,‚ÄĚ Andrews remembers, ‚ÄúI just laid there on the floor, both comforted and blown away.‚ÄĚ
Andrews‚Äô own vocals are notably more powerful and soulful -- especially on the organ-heavy blues number ‚ÄúBorder‚ÄĚ, with a ragged weariness that honors the immigrant‚Äôs resilience in the face of blatant thoughtlessness and racism; and ‚ÄúTook You Up‚ÄĚ, a take on accepting love as a simple offering before any illusion of wealth or success. Her vocal performances reflect her recent listening habits, which include Motown and soul, as well as albums by the eclectic rock band Little Feat. They also point to her confidence and growing range as a live vocalist.
‚ÄúI subconsciously started incorporating more vocal stretching in my songs, just because of how fun that was,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve always been really inspired by soul singers. I can sing like that -- but I never really had before.‚ÄĚ
In the end, May Your Kindness Remain finds Andrews at home in her restlessness, embracing her intuition. It has stretched her vocals, her sound and her songwriting to new depths and produced a brave record -- a record that is unafraid of addressing the complexities of life in order to find common ground and understanding, no matter how divided this world may seem.
- Maybe Buy
- Not My Style
- Too Expensive