Courtney Marie Andrews' decision to end a ten-year wanderlust - started when she was just sweet sixteen - to stop the busking, the Greyhound bus rides and undertaking tours far from home so she could focus and bring to us this glorious, confessional, coming of age album is a cause for real celebration. Honest Life is a sparkling and disarmingly uplifting way to start the musical year 2017.
Her travel experiences are fresh and expressed gloriously on this ten-track gem, emanating from what's she's described as the "first true growing pains as a woman" in song. Now 26, the Arizona native was uncertain where the songs would take her but she has deftly delivered absorbing tracks yielding a decade of thoughts and emotions. She has laid them bare here: they spill out in a somewhat innocent yet forthright and utterly heart-warming manner.
On the title track, in winsome fashion, she sings: "How to be honest / how to be wise / how to be a good friend / somethings take a lifetime to fully understand". Sage words from a young woman, indeed, set gently on a warm bed of piano and understated guitar.
Courtney produced this, her sixth album, herself in Seattle putting to fine use her youthful years as a session and backup singer and guitarist for nearly 40 artists, from Jimmy Eat World to Damien Jurado: Ryan Adams, among many, greatly admires her undoubtedly doughty songwriting skills.
A heartbreak in Europe, homesickness, drinkers in a bar where she lately worked plus a need to belong underpin the album, which has been highly acclaimed since its release last year in the States.
I was hooked from the opening track (and the cover image reminded me of on early days Melanie). Rookie Dreaming is a soul-stirring, gorgeous and mellow road trip song with Joni Mitchell type vocals and a Whiskeytown feel.
The outstanding, folk/country crossover, "How Quickly Your Heart Mends" is just delicious storytelling that will send folks scurrying for their Emmylou Harris collection to confirm comparisons. "I'm crossing out your name / now that you've crossed out mine," she sings as pedal steel and chunkling piano shuffle the plaintive lyrics into place to deliver an unequivocal message.
Equally impressive is the sorrowful, Nanci Griffith-like, Put The Fire Out: "I've been lost/ and I am ready to be found" she declares truthfully in a song during which it's clear she's ready to move on with life, without necessarily travelling anywhere from where she is, though she is considering a move to LA in real life.
Table For One is as sad and lonesome as the title suggests with Courtney /soulful and majestic at the same time - "Table for one / I got no-one I'm waiting on / I just pulled into town an hour ago".
Both Irene and the lament of Let the Good One Go highlight the purity and appeal of her voice, caressed by the superb piano of Charles Wicklander. It's an album of hope, intimacy, regret and determination.
But it's more than this: it is incredibly captivating with country or soul vocals, lucid lyrics captured and supported by an endlessly, relaxed band. Courtney Marie Andrews looks like she has plenty more to offer us on her musical journey, and I'm definitely in for that ride.
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