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Courtney Marie Andrews Courtney Marie Andrews
Album: May Your Kindness Remain
Label: Loose
Tracks: 10

This release from the fertile mind of the highly observational and award-winning Courtney Marie Andrews is no Honest Life 2, disarmingly uplifting though that album was.

I seriously doubt, however, that those she has brought to her breath-taking music in the past 12 months will be retreating from this unfettered 10-track collection given that it is passionate, muscular and blessed with wonderful lyrics whose grounded eloquence deserve the utmost admiration.

There is nothing elusive about the rousing, May Your Kindness Remain, whose creator examines and empathises wholeheartedly with those seeking the sometimes unattainable against a social backdrop of life in America today where people may well be struggling but remain hopeful, despite Trump and all.

It is a musically upbeat album and the proud songs radiate intimacy, compassion, warmth, astute scrutiny while Courtney's full-on, superb vocals keenly reflect her liking for Motown and the soul singers who have long inspired and moved her such as Aretha Franklin.

Her impressive singing with sizable nods to Laurel Canyon as well is decidedly invigorated by a stirring band and the adroit production of Mark Howard who pulled off quite a few first takes in a rented house/studio overlooking Los Angeles, where they hunkered down for eight days: that must have been a treat for Courtney who clocked up nine months on the road in 2017.

May Your Kindness Remain is the album title and opener, and it sets out a musical statement of intent - full band, expansive sound, powered vocals though with Courtney's admired, customary restraint to let the excellent lyrics flow. "If your money runs out / And your good looks fade / May your kindness remain," is the hope in the words.

Two Cold Nights In Buffalo offers a wistful look back at a proud city and what's gone missing while the wearied, country lament (and personal favourite) Rough Around The Edges lays a beefy piano beneath tender vocals displaying a pleasing, gracious edge.

Next up, Border, is about an unsavoury law enforcement officer in her home state of Arizona who finally got what was coming to him and thereafter there's the low-beat, almost honky-tonk tones of Kindness Of Strangers gloriously boosted by a lusty gospel input to conjure up moods of strength, where dreams don't die, and where good can always reach out to benefit many.

The temptation to bring out a follow-up record that continued where Honest Life left off must have crossed her mind and lingered as a major temptation. But Courtney Marie Andrews has faced tough decisions in her time on the road since she was sixteen and she deserves nothing but praise and admiration for unflinchingly and doggedly completing this album with its warm and big-hearted country, roots and soul sounds all vying for attention.

On the album's elegant front cover the 27-year-old has got her feet up and looks contented: hope she's thinking 'job well done' - she should be.

Mike Ritchie