20th April 2018
Since I first saw Courtney Marie Andrews on tour in August 2017, I have been singing the praises of the young singer/songwriter from Arizona to anyone who would listen. So, accompanied by a few new converts, I made the trip down to Dublin with a little trepidation. Would she fulfill the expectations? It was never in doubt!
From the first note of her ballad ‘Long Road Back To You’ to the last of a spell-binding cover of Little Feat’s Willin”, she held the rapt crowd in the palm of her hand. Courtney came on stage and launched into a wide-ranging set of styles that ticked most boxes; country, folk, gospel, funk, rock, and Motown got an airing, all delivered with Courtney’s sensuous and beguiling voice.
She has been compared in the past to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. Yet tonight, the artist that comes to mind in terms of delivery and that comfort with so many different styles is Linda Ronstadt. Certainly her version of the Little Feat classic, ‘Willin” betters both the original and Ronstadt’s much-loved cover. But for all the worthy comparisons, Courtney remains very much her own woman. Her vocals tonight are sensational; whether hitting the upper register on the gospel-tinged, ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ (with exceptional keyboards from Daniel Walker), to the slow yearning tones of ‘I Took You Up’, you could feel the pain and the hurt in each syllable.
Her most recent album is much in evidence in the material and the tone of the gig. The album asks for a better understanding and a kindness towards others in these troubled times we live in when leaders seek to build walls, rather than bridges. ‘This House’ is seemingly a straightforward country song extolling the virtues of family life, yet also serves as a call for a more compassionate time and country, and an entreaty to emigrants, so castigated by some…
There’s a bed upstairs if you’re ever in town or if you need a place to get your feet back on the ground. There’s coffee in the cupboard. Take any food that you want. My house, my house is your home.
The sentiment is repeated in the gloriously infectious ‘The Kindness Of Strangers’, and a call for better understanding and patience for those in need, in ‘Rough Around The Edges’.
The single ‘Near You’ is given an expansive airing with wondrous guitar from the wonderful Dillon Warnek, whose playing has been such a feature on recent albums. The backbone of the band remains Alex Sabel on bass and William Mapp on drums who never miss a beat.
A beautiful interplay of Courtney’s acoustic and Dillon’s understated electric ends the gig with a sublime rendition of ‘Honest Life’. The band’s return to the stage for an encore are accompanied by numerous calls for her best-known song; ‘Irene’. Courtney playfully suggests that the band “may or may not play the song” before launching into her song about the well-intentioned but unfortunate lady of the title…
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 dream of the north, Irene. Well, then that’s where you oughta be. But you gotta want it, Irene. Don’t follow any path halfheartedly. You are a magnet, Irene. Sometimes good people draw troublesome things.
At the moment, Courtney Marie Andrews is the brightest star in the Americana firmament and one who will only continue to grow. On the basis of this special performance, she will be a huge star.