About a year ago, back in May 2017, I had the good fortune of seeing Courtney Marie Andrews perform in the cozy confines of Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge. She was touring in support of her breakout album Honest Life, one of 2016’s finest albums, which was very deservingly given new life courtesy of a more concerted, multi-label promotional push throughout 2017.
An inspired convergence of country, folk and rock influences, Honest Life charmed this listener —and many others—through its embrace of a musical ethos that resides somewhere between Nashville and Laurel Canyon circa the early ‘70s, its slide guitar and piano driven reveries evoking the seminal songcraft of Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt.
A few songs in to Andrews’ set that evening, I surveyed the room and discovered a truly enraptured audience, awestruck by the grace and humility with which she commanded the stage. Remarkably, her knockout voice was even more powerful, even more crystalline in person than on record. And as I left the venue an hour later, floored by what I had just heard, I couldn’t help but think that her days of playing smaller venues like this one were numbered, expectations for her next career move likely sky high.
Capitalizing on her newfound recognition, Andrews has wasted precious little time in issuing the follow-up to Honest Life, in the form of the recently released May Your Kindness Remain. And thankfully, even upon cursory listen (though repeated, attentive listens are recommended), the ten songs she has included here make good—and then some—on the promise of its precursor.
Beyond her soaring voice, which is unequivocally the star of the show once again, May Your Kindness Remain’s core strength lies within the timeless, universal relatability and empathy of Andrews’ thoughtfully constructed narratives, which have been informed by her interactions with others while touring the world. “More than anything, [being on the road] got me thinking about my childhood, and the people around me that I’ve known, and the stories that come from my family,” Andrews explains in an official statement. “It became clear how many people are struggling through the same issues.” Indeed, across the album’s ten songs, her words paint vivid portraits of the simple and unfettered life, an existence that dismisses the often elusive trappings of luxury and excess in exchange for the more fundamental human needs of “laughter and love,” as she reflects on “This House.”
The opening title track is a stirring, salient message of finding redemption in being good to others, as Andrews encourages, “If your money runs out and your good looks fade / May your kindness remain.” Toward the album’s conclusion, the karmic justice of the gently swaying rocker “Kindness of Strangers” suggests that if you are indeed kind to others, your kindness will be reciprocated in times of need, with Andrews confiding, “When your sweetness surrenders to the cruelness of this world / All the small stuff and the bad luck / when it all becomes too much / how do you find solace in a place so quick to judge / do you try and play it cool / play the part you think they want / gettin’ by on the kindness of strangers.”
Other standouts on the standout-heavy affair include the poignant exploration of quiet isolation in “Lift the Lonely From My Heart,” the astutely perceptive “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo,” the soulful rocker “Border,” the plaintive ballad “Took You Up,” and the atmospheric, achingly beautiful closer “Long Road Back to You.”
Though the story of this master storyteller’s career is destined to continue evolving in exciting ways in the years (and albums) to come, May Your Kindness Remain offers convincing affirmation that persistence and passion can pay off for artists who have songs of substance to share with the world.
Notable Tracks: “Border” | “Kindness of Strangers” | “May Your Kindness Remain” | |Long Road Back to You”