Courtney Marie Andrews @ Gorilla, Manchester, 22 Apr
The Arizonan singer-songwriter brings a slick but oddly flat set to Manchester on the back of her best record yet
Given that Courtney Marie Andrews appears to have taken the long road around to success, it was probably a good job that she started young. She’d yet to turn 18 when her debut full-length Urban Myths was released in 2008, and since then her career has taken an unusual number of twists and turns, from a stint as backing vocalist and keyboardist with fellow Arizonans Jimmy Eat World – a world away from her solo work in musical terms – to a move north from sunny Phoenix to rainy Seattle that provided her a jump-start when she began playing guitar with the sorely underrated Damien Jurado.
It was only when she began to piece the songs together for her breakthrough fifth LP, Honest Life, that her experiences began to line up with the melancholy her music was infused with. Born out of being both homesick and lovesick, the album met with unanimous rave reviews and she chose to strike while the iron was hot by following it up in quickfire fashion with last month’s outstanding May Your Kindness Remain, a record inspired by the people she met on the road over two years of touring for Honest Life.
Andrews fronts a five-piece band at a not-quite-full Gorilla tonight and sounds every inch like somebody who’s been honing their craft for a decade; the arrangements are slick, the songs tight and, right from opener Long Road Back to You, the mood suitably mellow. What’s missing, though, is the genuine warmth that May Your Kindness Remain is scored through with, both musically (it is a sumptuously produced album) and lyrically. The breezier cuts provide the highlights – particularly How Quickly Your Heart Mends and the soulful Kindness of Strangers – and the title track off her latest album remains a gospel-flecked showstopper.
Perhaps if the true beauty of her records can’t be replicated with the full band, though, her next string of dates should be a proper solo affair – her voice alone would be more than enough to carry the songs.