Courtney Marie Andrews


“Living on the road, my friend, was gonna keep you free and clean/But now you wear your skin like iron and your breath’s as hard as kerosene.”
Townes Van Zandt – ‘Pancho and Lefty’

If Courtney Marie Andrews’ admiration of Van Zandt’s records goes back far enough, to when she was 16, perhaps she paid heed to the warning implicit in that opening line after she left the family home in Phoenix, AZ to busk around the U.S. and play any venue that would have her. The sentiment of her mother’s advice (“have fun and don’t do drugs”), was similar, but happily a decade or so of songwriting and travelling later, Andrews’ experiences, whilst undoubtedly challenging at times, seem only to have benefited her greatly in the long run, giving her a wisdom rare in one so young. Her music attests to that.

Tonight Andrews has brought a full band with her to the Deaf Institute, but she has actually performed in these parts before: almost four years ago to the day, in fact, at Dulcimer in Chorlton. And it is in a tentative way that she tells us that it was in Chorlton that she played that last show, presumably just in case Manchester and Chorlton have some kind of Springfield-Shelbyville type rivalry, but the crowd reaction reassures her that it’s not the case.

Her most recent album, Honest Life, her sixth full-length, consists of two batches of songs: a handful of autobiographical compositions and secondly a bunch of tunes she wrote for or about real-life characters she met working at a bar in Washington State, where she now lives. ‘How Quickly Your Heart Mends’, an example plucked from the latter batch, starts the set, with our protagonist upset and hiding in the bar’s bathroom, coming out only to find the jukebox playing a sad song “for all the ugly Americans”. No one but the heartbreaker is good enough. No one else will do.

Probably my favourite song of Andrews’, ‘Table for One’, then appears in amongst a whole swathe of brand-new songs, some of which feature gorgeous organ sounds to compliment the guitars and rhythm section. Andrews accounts for all the new songs by explaining that the band is currently in “pre-production mode”, ready to cut a record in September.

The reason most people here bought a ticket for tonight’s show is, of course, that they had heard Andrews sing. The voice is the main attraction, but also the band plays impeccably. Not quite so slick, however, is Andrews picking an inopportune moment to introduce her accompanying musicians, forgetting momentarily that the drummer and bassist are taking a time-out backstage, and bringing a chuckle to the sell-out crowd and her remaining bandmates.

With most of the songs in the set being either unreleased or from Honest Life, it’s good to hear Andrews play a solo version of ‘Woman of Many Colors’, a tune with hypnotic guitar scales appearing on her four-year-old album, On My Page, which is getting a re-release on vinyl tomorrow. Another new song follows and was written at a truck stop outside of Boston, MA the night Donald Trump was elected President and after she had cried into her cocktail. It’s a song for any woman who has ever felt objectified, she says.

It has really been a pleasure to be at this show, but as the set finishes I find myself wishing I had attended that Dulcimer gig back in 2013, too. And if I had also happened upon some West Coast daytime coffee-shop performance early in her career, I’d surely have been sat sipping and listening all afternoon.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.