Posts Tagged ‘Acoustic’

Courtney Marie Andrews’ recent May Your Kindness Remain (Acoustic) EP features acoustic renditions of four songs from last year’s May Your Kindness Remain album. That LP showcased an expansive sound that conjured the Band and Little Feat, among others, and was a dramatic – though not unwelcome – departure from the country-folk flavorings that accented her 2016 set, Honest Life.

Stripped to their essence, the songs – the title track, “Took You Up,” “Rough Around the Edges” and “Border” – lose none of their power. They aren’t revelatory performances, per se, but are revelations all the same. Minus the wheezing organ and gospel flourishes, for example, “May Your Kindness Remain” crests and recedes on Courtney’s crystalline vocal alone.

It’s a close approximation to how she sounded when I first saw her live, in May 2017, backed only by guitarist/consigliere Dillon Warnek. Her voice was clear and strong that night, a thing of true aural beauty – and yet her vocals were no match for the songs themselves. To my ears, they were imbued with the past, present and future of American music.

That’s still the case. “Is it the journey or the destination?” opens “Took You Up,” conjuring a line from a long-ago Stephen Stills song, “Thoroughfare Gap”: “It’s no matter. No distance. It’s the ride.” On album, Dillon’s electric guitar amplifies the emotional underpinning of the lyrics to perfection. Sans those accents and umlauts, however, Courtney’s acoustic delivery is no less wondrous. Likewise “Rough Around the Edges.” On album, piano buttresses the self-aware confessional; on EP, it’s not missed (though, in a sense, it is). “Border,” about measuring those who’ve been down the deepest well, swaps its sinewy rhythm for a “Hollis Brown”-like guitar motif.

Up top, I said these aren’t revelatory performances, per se, but are revelations all the same. That’s because, to slightly tweak that Stephen Stills line, “It’s no matter. No distance. It’s the song.” With songs this strong, delivery matters not; they simply resonate.

IMG_5099She has the voice of an angel. That was my first reaction after listening to Down by the Water, the first of two Greta Isaac EPs that arrived in my mailbox on Thursday. As I mentioned in a past post, I discovered her while researching retro acts from Wales; and, as I wrote then, while her music isn’t retro, per se, it is timeless. The four folk-flavored songs are plaintive and powerful, stark, deep and beautiful. And after listening to the second EP, Oh Babe, well, what can I say that won’t sound like I’m repeating myself? That she sounds like she stepped out of the mist of time, fully formed?

In reality, she hails from a music-minded family in Cowbridge, Wales; her mother is Caryl Parry Jones, a well-known Welsh singer-composer, and her father is Myfyr Isaac, a professional musician and sound engineer. It’s no surprise, in other words, that she began writing her own songs after teaching herself to play guitar at age 15 – it’s in her DNA. This WalesOnline profile is very informative, as is this interview with Terry Wogan of BBC Radio 2:

Not only does she sing “Oh, Babe” on it, but she and her sisters deliver a knockout performance of the Little Mix song “Black Magic.” (When they blend their voices together, it’s akin to listening in on heaven; similar, in that respect, to the Staves.)

And here she is, a few weeks back, singing the Cyndi Lauper classic “True Colours” –

Back to the EPs: Down by the Water, the first, dates from late 2014; Oh Babe was released earlier this year. Autographed CDs of both can be had here: http://gretaisaac.bigcartel.com/products. I highly recommend them.

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