Album review: Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers
PUBLISHED: 09:47 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:47 22 July 2020
Andrews flies the flag for modern Americana with a triumphantly raw, reflective set
When it comes to creative fuel, little else burns with the intensity of heartbreak. Created in the aftermath of a nine-year relationship, Old Flowers is Andrews’ third record and follows 2018’s exceptional breakthrough May Your Kindness Remain.
But where its predecessor revelled in the Arizona native’s vocal dexterity – a delicate but bell-clear lilt that can break into a fiery, feverish cry – Andrews dials it down for these 10 tracks.
Rather than demanding your attention from the stage, Old Flowers sits in a tatty corner banquette, biting its nails, but is arguably all the more alluring for it.
Featuring her most vulnerable and personal writing to date, these songs pack plenty of emotional punch and chronicle her journey through grief, loneliness and efforts to find herself again, set within evocative but gentle arrangements of 21st Century Americana with acoustic guitar and piano abetted sparingly by Mellotron, Wurlitzer and celeste, pedal steel and percussion.
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Produced by Andrew Sarlo (Bon Iver, Big Thief), the album features only three musicians and is focused on capturing the performance – best achieved in the electrifyingly raw Carnival Dream.
Elsewhere, Burlap String and Guilty proffer lashings of regret and heartbreak, Andrews wishing she could turn back the clock to somehow avert disaster, the former accented with pedal steel guitar, the latter driven by plaintive piano.
Recent single If I Told is a frank soliloquy, confessing unconditional love even though it may be unrequited. Wonderfully arranged, the song unfurls in gently-strummed acoustic guitar overlaid with eddies of piano and gently smouldering electric guitar, Andrews adding a melodic tick in the chorus to create a subtle earworm.
Addressed to a former lover, the piano-driven title track explores anguish and resolve through the lens of shaky, post break-up independence, statements belied by a slowly loping rhythm that, to these ears, reveal the true weight of unprocessed emotion.
In the beautiful sign-off Ships In The Night, Andrews writes a heartfelt-yet-philosophical postcard to the object of a brief affair in a far-flung land – a love for which “the timing wasn’t right”, set to mellifluous electro-key eddies.
Due to play Hackney’s Omeara last month, Covid-19 has bounced Andrews across to Islington to play the Union Chapel next March. Based on this record, tickets will be like gold dust.
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