Listening to the new album from singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews, you’d perhaps be somewhat surprised to learn that she was once an auxiliary member of rock band, Jimmy Eat World. The Phoenix, Arizona musician appeared on the band’s 2010 album, Invented, and toured as keyboard player and backing vocalist on the tour that followed.
Andrews’ solo material leans more towards the genres of Americana and Pop-Folk, with a slight Country edge, and on her fifth album, Old Flowers, she uses intimate and sparse instrumentation, reflecting songs that document the end of a nine-year relationship, the subsequent loneliness and her road to recovery.
Andrews says the record is “about heartbreak. There are a million records and songs about that, but I did not lie when writing these songs. This album is about loving and caring for the person you know you can’t be with. It’s about being afraid to be vulnerable after you’ve been hurt. It’s about a woman who is alone, but okay with that, if it means truth.”
With that frame of mind when writing, it’s not surprising that Old Flowers is a more stripped back album than her breakthrough record, Honest Life and the critically-acclaimed May Your Kindness Remain. Courtney plays all the piano and guitar parts, with Big Thief’s James Krivchenia on drums, Matthew Davidson switching between keys, bass and pedal steel and Andrew Sarlo (who also produces) playing bass on a couple of songs. The result pushes the emotion and soul in Andrews’ voice to the fore.
Opener, Burlap String, is a gentle introduction, revealing the story of the failing relationship as she sings “I’ve grown cautious, I’ve grown up. I’m a skeptic of love”.
Guilty is one of the many piano dominated songs that make up much of the album and create an ambience of beautiful melancholy. Here, Courtney sings about the mixed emotions of moving on from the relationship whilst admitting “I am thankful for the time we shared”.
A barely audible guitar introduces one of the album highlights, the gorgeous If I Told, with a refrain that reminds me of Sigur Ros’ sublime Svefn-G-Englar. Andrews remains on topic as she sings “What would you say if I told you you’re my last thought at the end of each night? Would you believe me/or would you even reply?”
Midway through the album, Together Or Alone and Carnival Dream represent the true feeling of heartbreak and loss before a spark of optimism in the title track. The line “You can’t water old flowers” finds her realising that it’s probably time to begin looking forward before It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault lifts the mood, taking the narrative into the realm of self-analysis and self-re-creation.
By the album’s conclusion, the story comes to a positive place, with Courtney singing the words, “Hope you eased on the drinking, hope you laugh, hope you care. Hope your days are even better than the ones that we shared. And I hope that you find love, settle down somewhere new and I hope that this world sees who I see in you” and the acceptance that “I know we felt the same way, but the timing wasn’t right”.
By sharing her emotions in such a raw and honest way, Courtney Marie Andrews has created a truly remarkable collection of songs that take the listener on an intimate journey that every human can relate to. Two years ago, Rolling Stone named May Your Kindness Remain as one of the 25 Best Country and Americana Albums of the year. Expect to see Old Flowers on many year-end lists for 2020.
Old Flowers is released on July 24th 2020 on Fat Possum Records
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