It’s forever a case of break out the comparisons when writing about female singer/songwriters – I’m guilty of it, as well as being critical of it – but sometimes those comparisons stand up and usually they’re meant as a compliment; to that end it’s impossible not to hear Emmylou Harris in the weepy steel lines and the stoic delivery on Table For One, even if the shape of the voice is different. Same too with the obligatory Joni Mitchell mention, it’s there most profoundly on Irene, a Court and Spark-era sound with some of the lilt of The Band.
Courtney Marie Andrews is at her absolute best here, on the latest album – the sort of record that would be blowing minds if it was a debut, for some reason we love that story: The Big, Great Debut Album – as was the case with Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. I can certainly imagine anyone swept up in that (good record, by the way) would find lots to like in Courtney Marie Andrews’ music too – particularly this well-rounded, well-honed effort. Superb musicianship helps to frame the essence of the heartbreak balladry on offer here. A couple of the album centrepieces – How Quickly Your Heart Mends and Let The Good One Go – stand up alongside some of the best work on last year’s case / lang/ veirs record and there’s a hint of Linda Ronstadt when sounding out the forlorn love-worn sadness.
But if were to compare this to anything and anyone else it isn’t about sound – it’s about integrity. And so I think of Courtney Marie Andrews, here, a handful of releases into her career and still so young, as being the Americana-infused folk/pop chanteuse to stand near Laura Marling; to clarify that’s about the precision and soul in the crafting of songs, the integrity and consistency (and build) of the releases.
That’s about as high as I can get in terms of offering praise. So it’s most certainly not a comparison that want to offend.
The guitar-and-voice title track has Andrews gently soaring, Highway Soaring is so early-70s it could sit alongside Blue and Tapestry and that small handful of exquisite James Taylor records and the closing Only In My Mind has the sort of softly-valedictorian piano line (again, think of Joni’s songs of hope and stoicism) that again recalls Carole King.
In and around these hallmark sounds, these perfectly manicured musical moments is a voice that sings pure and sounds gorgeous; there are the words of a poet In there too – all impeccably controlled (voice and lyrics) this never overshoots, never misses its mark. The songs making up this album are strong and wise, the album that houses those songs is glorious.