Open House Festival
Space Theatre, Bangor
30th August 2017

Twelve months ago, few outside the United States would have heard of Courtney Marie Andrews. Now, on the back of a beautiful new album, ‘Honest Life’, and a scintillating turn on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, she is the hottest ticket at this year’s Open House Festival.

Aged 26, the diminutive Arizonan has already built an impressive CV. She has recorded five albums and been a backing vocalist for Jimmy Eat World and Damien Jurado. Counting Ryan Adams and Jurado among those singing her praises, this could be her time to break into the big league, and on the basis of this performance, it would be well merited.

Beginning with one of the standout tracks of the album, ‘How Quickly Your Heart Mends’, Courtney’s voice displays a warmth and range that has variously seen her compared to Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt. She glides through a set, twenty songs long, taking in country, rock, and pop, with a big nod to the Laurel Canyon sound of the 70s.

The songs are a mixture of material drawn mostly from the last two albums and new material which she informs us is in pre-production for the next album. Old or new, each song is warmly received by the capacity crowd. The songs show a remarkable maturity for one so young. They speak of love lost and individuals striving for a place in the world.

‘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.

Table For One

Other songs are little character studies, and prayers for a better future for the unfortunate ones, as in Irene:

The heart is funny, Irene. You can’t control who it wants to love. So let it love, Irene. Man or woman, or anyone it wants. You are a magnet, Irene. Sometimes good people draw troublesome things.

Ably backed by her band of four, special mention must go to guitarist Dillon Warnek, whose playing was exemplary, as the band moved from slow ballads to rockier “Band”-like soft rockers. The contradicting shy yet confident performer only seemed to endear herself to the audience further.

But one always comes back to the voice. It is a thing of incredible versatility and beauty, equally at home on heart aching pleas to the incarcerated relative in ‘Paintings From Michael’ sang solo, to the chugging cover of Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’, the warmth of that gorgeous voice enveloped the audience.

On a few occasions over the years, I have left a gig thinking, this could be the next big thing. Courtney Marie Andrews will be big. The down side to that is we may not see her again in such intimate surroundings as tonight, but few would begrudge the success that surely awaits her.

In years to come people will reminisce about this gig and tell friends “I remember seeing her in a small theatre in Bangor before she won those Grammys”. Go see her if you can. Buy the album ‘Honest Life’. You will feel better for it!