On May Your Kindness Remain (Fat Possum/Mama Bird), an album characterized as a call for empathy, Courtney Marie Andrews, a young but already veteran singer-songwriter, pulls off incredibly direct and heartfelt songs without being uncomfortably earnest. In “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo,” Andrews sings, “What happened to the middle class, mom-and-pop, five-and-dimes?” This line, accompanied by guitar and piano driven composition, could easily veer into hackneyed territory.
Andrews, however, has the skill to make it work. The song works because it’s a pastiche of a Buffalo snowstorm. This allows Andrews to make all manner of observations, like her brilliant line, “A bum searches for shelter, so cold he dreams of hell.” This kind of image-heavy writing, which draws on the implicit, naturally contrasts with the immediately following, abstract statement, “It’s that American Dream dying.” The songcraft here effectively pairs the concrete and the abstract, sometimes in the same line, as “Gonna wash this rust belt new,” in the chorus.
Driven by acoustic guitar, piano, and organ, produced by Mark Howard (John Prine, Tom Waits, Shelby Lynne), this album falls squarely in the Americana genre. Andrews’s unique voice and writing don’t map to any one figure, but has drawn comparisons to everyone from Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Carole King, to John Steinbeck and Leonard Cohen. Her voice doesn’t have the reediness of Harris’s, she’s more concrete than Cash, she’s less focused on relationships and more political than King, she’s not as gritty and more feminine (naturally) than Steinbeck, and she’s less metaphysical than Cohen. The comparisons are flattering, though, and suggest a deep level of respect for her among her peers and critics. It is well deserved. This is a beautiful and wonderfully well-written album, and I strongly encourage you to listen. The addition of C.C. White’s vocals (Ben Harper, Jason Mraz, Taj Mahal) blending with Andrews’ sweetens it all the more. Investigate, here: https://www.courtneymarieandrews.com/