Does a singer-songwriter aspire to be compared to someone else? Probably not, but if that comparison happens to be Joni Mitchell it might not be all that bad. Courtney Marie Andrews doesn’t consider herself to be a country singer per-se. She has however released an album that provides us with more than enough ‘country’ to be going on with, and it’s set to be released in the UK on 20th January.
It’s said that the best songwriters draw from personal experiences. Having left home at 16 to go on the road, eventually working in Belgium for various bands singing backing vocals, Andrews can certainly relate to the topics that she sings about. This is her sixth studio album and is considered by many to be her best. One has to wonder why a singer with such obvious talent has been totally under the radar for the last decade despite having previously released 5 studio albums. As an introduction therefore to Courtney Marie Andrews, ‘Honest Life’ is 10 tracks of enlightenment. The comparison with Joni Mitchell emanates not only from the vocal similarities but also the 70’s folk style that she recreates.
Most of the album has sparse instrumentation with acoustic guitar backing and only an occasional pedal steel or electric accompaniment, but this only serves to emphasise the pureness of the vocals. ‘Honest Life’ began life as a project whilst she was working in Europe and became homesick for the USA. The mix of songs on offer reflect her insecurities whilst working abroad and her observations when she returned home and began temporary work in a bar. All the tracks are self-written. The whole album is self produced. The project has been warmly received. It will almost certainly be included on many ‘best of’ lists at the end of the year. The opener ‘Rookie Dreaming’ serves as a fine introduction to the lyrical imagery that is on offer here. “I am sitting all alone on this train. I am a passenger to somewhere I do not yet know the name”.
‘Table For One’ with its slides and piano backing is clearly a song written whilst she was reflecting home life from afar. “Cause I’m a little bit lonely. A little bit stoned. And I’m ready to go home. You don’t want to be like me. This life it ain’t free. Always chained to when I leave.”
She is a songwriter who isn’t afraid to expose her inner sleeve. ‘Put The Fire Out’ is almost an apology to friends and family for not sticking around. “I’ve seen enough too much city. I’ve lived it up not enough to sleep. I’ve been up and I’ve been down. I’ve been lost and I’m ready to be found.”
‘Only In My Mind’ takes the self-appraisal even further. Set to piano and a building string backing it is the emotional peak that closes the album. It’s an album to savour. One that will resonate with many who can appreciate that sometimes there isn’t anywhere that compares to home.
It’s been a much better year for female singer songwriters than in previous years. The balance is becoming even once again and it would be cool to hear this style of country music in the mainstream. Courtney Marie Andrews’ contribution to the cause fully deserves its plaudits.