Posts Tagged ‘Honest Life’

Through the decades, I can count but a handful of albums that have been as consistently intoxicating as Courtney Marie Andrews’ Honest Life has been for me over these past few months. I’m trading a tad in hyperbole with that lede – there have been dozens, if not more, such albums – but it is in a select group. (My full review of it can be found here.) On my old site, I used to write that “it takes you there, wherever there is” about certain songs, albums and performances – such is the case here. No matter my mood, or the pressures of the day, listening to it lifts me up.

One such moment: when the backup vocals come in for the “rock ’n’ roll at the Blue Moon Tavern” line in “Put the Fire Out.” It’s a perfect accent on a perfectly crafted song.

In the first YouTube clip below, Courtney talks about how she produced the album herself and, because she was self-funding the endeavor, recorded it in three or four days – too fast to foul anything up, really, or get too fancy. The result placed the focus where it should always be: the songs.

Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5: Courtney Marie Andrews on YouTube – a roundup of clips and performances well worth watching from start to finish.

1) … on Radio 91 KRCB FM , April 7th, 2017. An enlightening interview (on the road vs. being home: “you’re in a constant state of not being content”) and in-studio performances of “Put the Fire Out” and “Table for One.”

2) … @ Rough Trade West April 12th, 2017. An in-store appearance that features a very nice set: “Sea Town,” “This Is Not the End,” “Put the Fire Out,” “Table for One” and “Irene.”

3) … @ The Social (Part 1), March 6th, 2017. A great set in London.

4) … @ The Social (Part 2), March 6th, 2017. And a great conclusion to the set!

5) Honest Life (complete album).

The earth wobbles on its axis. It’s a phenomenon that has intrigued scientists since the 1890s, when it was initially detected, but it wasn’t until 2016 that Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers identified the likely cause. Have no fear: The world isn’t set to collapse on its side as if a spinning top in its last seconds upright; the end, as such, isn’t nigh. It’s simply Earth adjusting its balance due to, of all things, drought. Minus the weight of water, it tilts.

In a figurative sense, people wobble, too – and not just from too much booze. We’re forever spinning like tops a split-second from toppling over, our axes shifting from the weight added and subtracted from our shoulders by ourselves and others. We lean one way one day and another the next until, at long last, we spin and lean no more. It’s the way of life.

Different people handle the daily burdens in different ways. Me? Take a look around this blog and you’ll find the answer: It’s music. At its best, whether in concert or via record, CD or digital media, music takes me away from the day’s trials and tribulations like no other. Whether you close your eyes and drift away on a catchy melody or pump your fist in the air with thousands of other fans in the arena, a la at a Springsteen concert, the past and future aren’t just secondary concerns – they are of no concern. And after a morning devoted to the burden known as taxes, which always adds weight to my frame, I’ve focused on music for the afternoon, first with the documentary Ticket to Write: The Golden Age of Rock Journalism on Amazon Prime…

…and then sliding down the rabbit hole known as YouTube in search of wonders and delights, a few of which were new to me. So, for today’s Top 5: Wonders & Delights. No rhyme or reason to the picks beyond they captured my fancy….

1) Harriet – “Reach.” This is a cover version of a song the Brit pop group S Club 7 sent to No. 2 on the U.K. charts in 2000; Harriet recorded it for Graham Norton’s radio show in honor of his birthday. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard the original. And, quite frankly, I don’t want or need to: This voice does it for me.

2) Natalie Gelman – “Easy Now.” I don’t know much about Ms. Gelman, but she’s a singer-songwriter with a bright future. This is a great song.

3) Amelia Eisenhauer & the Peruvian Farm Girls – “Changed.” So Amelia was an American Idol contestant during its final season, which is where I first heard her. She’s good. Better than good, actually, as this video shows:

4) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Honest Life.” The title track to Courtney’s recent album, which I’ve listened to almost daily since discovering it in late February. (It still gets better with every listen, and I’ve listened to it at least several hundred times, I think.) We have tickets to see her in early May – can’t wait!

5) Lulu – “Oh Me Oh My.” We also have tickets to see the legendary Lulu in May. She’s one of the greats, and this song – one of her greatest.

And one bonus – inspired by the torrential rains we experienced yesterday:

6) Belinda Carlisle – “Sun.” This was one the one new song included on Belinda’s Icon collection a few years back. It’s addictive.

courtneymarieandrews_honestlife

It happens to most of us, I think: discovering an album that sounds like it’s been with you forever. Sometimes it’s that the songs are amalgamations that mix a bit of this and a dash of that into a tasty hash. Other times, they’re mimeographed marvels that are just a tad blurrier and paler than the originals, though we sometimes forgive them those sins. (Often, in that second instance, they’re favorite artists whose new works echo their old.) And then there are those rare occurrences where the artist taps into and mines the collective unconscious, and presents their findings in a familiar form.

That last instance is the case with Courtney Marie Andrews’ Honest Life, which was released in October 2016 in the U.S. and in the rest of the world in January 2017. Though I just discovered it last week, it’s as if it’s been with me for decades. In a sense, it’s a simple singer-songwriter album that, due to the age we live in, has been categorized as country because of the country-flavored overtones on some of the songs. In another era, though, “Table for One” or “Put the Fire Out” would have been played by radio stations that also programmed Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell.

There is nothing revolutionary in the grooves, in other words. And, yet, there is everything revolutionary in them. That conundrum-powered clarity, carried forth by Andrews’ evocative vocals and lyrics, echoes everything from Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky to Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Steve Earle’s Guitar Town to the Jayhawks’ Hollywood Town Hall, to say nothing of Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul and First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold. Each of those LPs, after all, chronicle the human experience in ways that are unique yet familiar.

Honest Life does the same. Many of the songs are about life on the road – moving on, setting down roots and heading out, yet again, and forging (or trying to forge) connections along the way. The album opens with “Rookie Dreaming,” in which a nameless traveler is bound on a train for an unknown destination –

If you listened, you heard the song evolve from “I was a you-will-never-see-me-again” in the opening verse to “I am a when-will-I-see-you-again?” by its last. In between, she chronicles the missed opportunities and dark alleys found on the map of life. Her future – as with everyone’s, regardless of age – has yet to be written. In the title track, she tackles a similar theme, albeit in more direct terms:

“All I’ve ever asked for is a way to understand/all of life’s lessons the best that I can:/How to be honest,/how to be wise/and how to be a good friend./Some things take a lifetime to fully understand.”

It’s a remarkable album that’s well worth seeking out. Five stars, easy.

courtneymarieandrews_honestlife

fullsizeoutput_1379For a variety of reasons, our once-routine weekend excursions to B&N have become rare occurrences these past few months. So yesterday, when provided the opportunity, we happily returned to what we sometimes call our home away from home – where, as is our custom, we took up residence in the cafe for a spell. Diane sipped Fiji water and perused several books; and I chugged a high-octane caffeine drink while flipping through the British music magazines Mojo and Uncut.

Reading through the reviews, which is what I like to do, is always interesting. I usually find one, two, three or more albums I want to check out. Also, because the magazines often feature many of the same albums, fullsizeoutput_1375reading them back-to-back can be interesting for reasons beyond just the music. What may be afforded a full-page rave in one, for instance, may be reduced to a half-paragraph slap in the other. But if something is lauded in both? It’s a good bet that it’s worth tracking down.

As a result, through the years (decades?) of such excursions, I’ve discovered much good music from both magazines – including, yesterday, Courtney Marie Andrews. She’s a 26-year-old, Arizona-born singer-songwriter who now lives outside of Seattle. Uncut referenced Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill and Emmylou Harris in its review of her recent album, Honest Life; Mojo just mentions Joni. Such lofty comparisons seem a tad unfair, but such is the shorthand used by most music fans, including myself. I’d add two more: Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit; and Iris DeMent.

Anyway, this KEXP performance-interview features a few of her new songs plus some insights into her character and life, including the fact that at the time of the interview she was digging into the music of Townes Van Zandt and Aretha Franklin. How cool is that?

Honest Life, I should mention, is well worth the listen. I’ll be digging into it this week.