Review: Courtney Marie Andrews’ bell-clear vocals and weeping guitars at Trinity Centre (2/3/23)

With a bell-clear vocal style and an effective grasp on the dynamics of introspective themes and love-gone-wrong composition, Arizona born Courtney Marie Andrews first garnered significant critical praise for 2018 album May Your Kindness Remain. Outside of Andrews’ solid songwriting, it’s a record that reveals that her main strength arguably lies in the arrangement choices and elegant instrumental textures that surround her melodies.

Tonight’s opener ‘Loose Future’ – the title track from her most recent album of last year – instantly throws up a convincing Exhibit A; the sweet and simple caress that floats out from guitarist Jerry Bernhardt’s Epiphone Casino is the perfect accompaniment to Andrews’ strummed acoustic and country-tinged vocals. Immediately obvious, and kudos to Trinity Centre’s acoustics, is the clarity of Andrews’ voice above the music; sounding as good here as on record, it’s one of robust vulnerability. Her versatility is then evidenced we she steps away from the mic and adorns the coda to ‘On The Line’ with a haunting whistle.

Temporarily eschewing her acoustic guitar and strapping on a cherry Gibson ES-335, Andrews introduces ‘These Are The Good Old Days’ as having “a little summer kinda feeling after this cold ass week”. It’s a song that utilises an attractive theme – seen elsewhere in The Libertines’ ‘The Good Old Days’ or The Beatles’ ‘Things We Said Today’ – where an embracing of the present moment can almost imbue it with the nostalgic significance it will hold in future years: “These are the good old days/don’t let time slip away.”

After a somewhat pensive start, back to back tunes ‘You Do What You Want’ and ‘How Quickly Your Heart Mends’ insert a little more pace into proceedings and thematically offer a hint of sardonic bitterness at odds with Andrews’ affable stage presence. Mid-set, she talks of how the Covid pandemic provided some self-education in her discovered joy, after a near lifetime of being on the road, of staying home and creating art. She then describes the loophole of writing songs during soundchecks on tour, and proceeds to showcase a dainty, fingerpicked new offering.

Just when it starts to feel that Andrews’ pretty songs and agreeable disposition may become cloying, there’s a volley of tracks that, fuelled by Bernhardt’s brilliantly economical guitar playing, shift the gig in another direction. Standout tune from Loose Future ‘Change My Mind’ is beautifully embellished by Bernhardt’s gossamer string bends while his playing during ‘Satellite’ is the genuine sound of an instrument reduced to tears. ‘Near You’ features volume pedal swells akin to George Harrison’s in ‘Yes It Is’ before Bernhardt breaks out, for the first time, into a semi-aggressive solo. And during ‘Carnival Dream’, Andrews’ plaintive failure to let go of past love is turned to anger via Bernhardt’s feedback of broken distortion and a sound like distressed whale song.

Following ‘Me and Jerry’, Andrews throws flowers into the audience before returning for a three song encore. The night closes with an energetic jamboree, featuring support act Robert Ellis and Andrews’ tour manager, of The Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’; and thus the show’s evolution from its genteel openings is complete.

Scott Hammond