Album Review: Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

In his famous commencement speech to Syracuse University writer George Saunders said, ‘As a goal in life you could do worse than: try to be kinder.’ Of course, he explained, kindness can be hard. We are inherently selfish beings. But if you fail to be kind to others your life will be filled with regret. Such truths form the central theme to the new record ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ by Courtney Marie Andrews. Drawing on gospel and soul influences these beautiful songs could lift the hate from even the coldest heart.

Title track May Your Kindness Remain was inspired by a conversation with a friend who was worried when Andrews said she wanted to move to L.A. – after all how could anyone stay grounded in a superficial place like that? So she wrote from his perspective, advising herself to be kind no matter what rags or riches life throws at her. After all ‘a kind heart don’t cost a dime’. It’s a powerful way to open the album, and shows a real maturity in songwriting. Her voice is a revelation – gone is the quiet indie folk delicateness of her debut Honest Life – now she reaches the rafters, sounding like she’s been singing in church her whole life.

There is another song on the album with the word ‘kindness’ in the title, underlining the significance of the theme. On this one the music goes back to her country influenced roots, singing about relying on the ‘Kindness of Strangers’, because ‘the ones that stick around are the hardest ones to find’. She wants to connect on a deeper level, but it’s hard, especially out on the road. So you need those small everyday interactions with strangers to get you through. The title echoes a line from Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ where the tragic heroine Blanche DuBois is destroyed by the cruel reality of life. Williams used her fate to show that without kindness delicate souls simply can’t survive. I’m not sure if Andrews intentionally referenced the play but she understands that truth, for sure.

Loneliness is another concern of the album, with Andrews recently admitting ‘I’m probably the loneliest person ever’. So on ‘Lift the Lonely From My Heart’ she wants to be in love but her own insecurities get in the way. At the end of the song she realises ‘only I can lift the lonely from my heart.’ You can’t rely on others for happiness. Being kind to yourself is sometimes the most difficult and important thing you can do.

Political kindness is here too – ‘Border’ is a compassionate story song about the immigrant experience, inspired by her experiences growing up in Arizona. ‘Two Cold Nights in Buffalo’ explores how big businesses and big money have ripped the heart out of America. Without a collective community, a shared sense of belonging and an understanding of our own history how can we ever work together to improve the world?

Andrews is always concerned with striving to be a better person, even if she admits to being ‘Rough Around the Edges’. That song was one of my favourites from the two recent live performances I’ve seen and it’s great to hear it with the full band sound. ‘When will I learn to shut my mouth?’ She muses to herself. Hopefully never.

Took You Upand ‘This House’ concern her belief that money and material possessions are not as important as love and a place to really call home. On the cover of the album she relaxes on a sofa in a comfortable living room but look more closely and you can see the hazy blur at the edges: this is but a dream of a life. Courtney still lives on the road or in a succession of Airbnbs and friends’ houses. Being a highway vagabond gives her lots to sing about but you can hear a longing for love and security at the heart of these songs.

So it’s fitting then, that the album finishes with the song Long Road Back To You. Both her and her love are out on the road, headed in different directions. Maybe they will never be reunited but her wistful voice suggests the thought of a better future might just keep her travellin’ thru.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Courtney said, “I’m not a religious person, but I realized that kindness is my own gospel. In this world we are living in, it’s a hard thing to come by.” In our secular world we do need reminded sometimes to look for the good in people, to love thy neighbour so to speak. Music has the power to bring people together and even to change how people think, especially gospel and folk music which are key influences on this album. Songs as spellbinding as these can surely only help make the world a better place.

And so to those music critics who insulted this album or those who maybe gave this one a good review but are relentlessly cruel to others, I say: go back and listen again. We all need to learn from these songs. Open your heart and may your kindness remain.

BUY: https://courtneymarieandrews.bandcamp.com/album/may-your-kindness-remain

9 thoughts on “Album Review: Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

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  1. I just finished writing my review of this album and only now I read your review.
    We think the same way. I have also read various criticisms and I think they are the result of superficial listening. Tomorrow I publish my review. You will like it 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I spent nearly a week with it and gave it six or seven listens – I still stand by what I said. “Superficial listening” for others, maybe, but some people simply have a different opinion than others sometimes. I see nothing wrong with that.

      Anyway, like your review, Michelle, although I think I know who that last paragraph is directed toward 😉 Lol, I do see “Border” making my year end list for songs, but I was honestly a tad disappointed.

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      1. That last paragraph was not directed at you!!! It was that Stephen M Deusner guy who called this album ridiculous in Uncut magazine and then SCM. I thought your review was fair – apart from the score. Where did I say superficial listening? What I meant was if you don’t like something then it doesn’t hurt to go back again, try to open your heart and be kinder. I think that’s fair advice in any case x

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      2. Oh, the first part was directed at Joe, lol, not you! I agree, certain albums take time to grow, and maybe this will. Honestly “Two Cold Nights In Buffalo” really soured it for me, mostly because as a Buffalo native, it just paints a wrong picture of everything. That’s a very weird criticism though since if I lived somewhere else, would I notice? Probably not. I love songs like “Cairo, IL” and others in this vein but who knows who those songs don’t sit well with.

        I’m only kidding on the last part too. Just having fun 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah I honestly think she could have used any American town in that song. She wanted to make a wider point about society so I wouldn’t take it personally. And to be fair you have to agree that in the streaming age taking a ‘superficial’ listen to things is quite common.

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      4. Maybe you’re right. That’s a very fair point. I’ll give it another listen soon and report back!

        But yes, unfortunately we’re in an age where we need to hear something and move onto the next thing. It sucks, but that’s another reason to like blogs more – they take their time to hear/review something, like you waiting to publish your review until you were sure it was ready.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Also, didn’t know about this Stephen Deusner guy but I can believe it. It’s why I have a hard time reading professional outlets these days. It seems like they’re either trying to be sweet with hyperbole or ruthlessly critical. There’s no middle ground.

        At least with a blog I know I’m hearing a passionate, unbiased opinion from someone who loves music either way.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’m sorry that my words “superficial listening” may have made you think of your review. Your opinion about this album is quite common. I read in a couple of reviews in Italian and it is to these that I refer. Also I initially made the mistake of listening to the album superficially and I felt a bit of disappointment. But then I was able to better appreciate these songs. If it did not happen to you, I understand your opinion and I respect it.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hey Joe,

        In hindsight, I shouldn’t have sent this comment. I know we read each other’s blogs (you do great work by the way), so I took it personally and I shouldn’t have. I apologize for that.

        I’m going to give it another listen soon and see if I like it a bit better! The cool thing about music is that it can always grow on you. Again, sorry for my comment.

        Liked by 2 people

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