Every so often, a record label will be fortunate enough to release two or three notable records within a brief period of time. For Mama Bird Recording Co., March has been kind. At beginning of this month, listeners were blessed with Haley Heynderickx‘s sterling ‘I Need to Start a Garden’; now, Courtney Marie Andrews‘ ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ greets the transition to spring with aplomb.
‘May Your Kindness Remain’ coolly paces itself out of the starting gates with its eponymous track. While soulful organs permeate the atmosphere, Andrews gradually builds emotional tension during each of the first two refrains before a backing chorus and cymbals erupt during the third instance. Without advocating for any “formulaic” approach to writing a solid record, this progression seemingly always offers a damn near immaculate opening. That is, rather than deriving its name from a track or lyric buried in its latter half, ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ exudes the sense that everything is absolutely critical; nothing on the album feels superfluous. Having captured listeners’ attention, the song rapidly fades away, allowing ‘Lift the Lonely from My Heart’ to present a gentle narrative about depression and love while Andrews teeters between woeful crooning and reserved joy.
Nothing feels stagnant or uninteresting, and Andrews nearly offers an unblemished first quarter with the dusty, country-truckin’ jam ‘Two Cold Nights in Buffalo’; however, this is where one witnesses a rare stumble. During the song’s final verse, Andrews muses, “What happened to the middle class, mom-and-pop, five-and-dimes?” Initially, this lyric solidifies the tune’s working-class, nostalgic overtones; elsewhere, Andrews comments that the American Dream is dying. While such concerns are practically integral to Americana, audiences ought to be wary. When Andrews nonchalantly asks, “What happened to the neighborhood and the neighbors who had moved? / What happened to preserving this town’s history?”, there’s a palatable discomfort. Preserving history would entail scrutinizing white settlers’ relationship with indigenous “neighbors” — not paving over it by bemoaning white rural flight.
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Despite the considerable appeal of Andrews‘ refreshing approach to the “classic” Americana sound, it would behoove the songwriter to experiment further with lyrics that largely feel tired and generic. ‘Took You Up’ offers wonderful execution with its weeping guitar solo and piano arrangement, but its lyrical content (namely, having love despite financial hardship) holds the groove back; ditto ‘This House’, ‘I’ve Hurt Worse’, and ‘Border’. Now, these are by no means sub-par efforts. In fact, ‘Took You Up’ is one of the album’s most powerful tracks, and will predictably leave audiences in emotional shambles; however, one may find themselves skipping these songs in favor of the more gripping (and timely) ‘Kindness of Strangers‘.
‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is a charming, above-average — though not flawless — album that may help listeners cope with pseudo-springtime lethargy. Courtney Marie Andrews‘ flaunts a talent for penning compelling, soulful Americana, but occasionally finds herself caught in lyrically generic brambles that undercut her promise. Certainly a delightful introduction to a musician who is four LP’s into their career, the ultimate value of this release just might be coaxing listeners to spend some time with Andrews‘ discography.
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The album’s full track listing is:
01. May Your Kindness Remain
02. Lift the Lonely from My Heart
03. Two Cold Nights in Buffalo
04. Rough Around the Edges
06. Took You Up
07. This House
08. Kindness of Strangers
09. I’ve Hurt Worse
10. Long Road Back to You
‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is out now via Fat Possum and Mama Bird Recording Co.