In the two years since Courtney Marie Andrews garnered critical acclaim for her stellar record Honest Life, she has toured like crazy, released another excellent record – 2018’s May Your Kindness Remain – and, judging by her performance at Rough Trade on September 19, gained a lot more confidence. In May of 2017 at a performance at Mercury Lounge, Andrews was self-assured, but quiet and a little reserved. Her songs, and the power of her voice, speak for themselves. But at Rough Trade, decked out in a custom embroidered, fringed and bedazzled Fort Lonesome suit, Andrews seemed like a whole new woman. There was an undeniable strength radiating from her as she sang songs off both of her most recent records, plus a few new tunes, and one particularly memorable cover.
Opening for Andrews was the buzzy Michaela Anne, accompanied by only her own electric guitar. Even without a full band to back her up, Anne delivered a strong honkytonk punch playing songs off her 2016 record Bright Lights and the Fame, and a few new ones, too. Her voice is something to behold, clear and bright with a little twang. Anne’s songs vary between breaking your heart and making you cry, and sweet kiss-offs with plenty of attitude.
Andrews was joined by four band members: Greg Diarra on keys and harmonies, Dillon Warnek playing some serious guitar solos, William Mapp on drums, and Ole Kirkeng on bass. Andrews has always had a powerhouse voice, but she uses it differently now, with a sense of ownership and belonging that knocks you off your feet. She leans into the natural elasticity she possesses, showing more dimension and a hell of a lot more swagger in her live performance.
Opening with “Long Road Back To You” off May Your Kindness Remain, and rounding out her set with more songs off that record like “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo”, “This House” (an ode to a beloved golden retriever), “Rough Around the Edges”, “Border” (a f*** you to Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio), “Kindess of Strangers” and the album’s title track. It was a joy to hear these songs live, particularly after it was nearly impossible to get into the small room where Andrews played a set at Newport Folk Festival back in July. They clearly mean a lot to her, and she feels them deeply when they sing. You can see it in her eyes and hear it in every note.
Towards the end of her set, which also included Honest Life’s “Irene”, “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” and “Table For One”, Andrews paid tribute to one of her heroes, Aretha Franklin. With Diarra contributing beautiful harmonies, Andrews sang the hell out of “Natural Woman” and made the whole crowd swoon. It is easy to see how Franklin has inspired Andrews, and gratifying to see Andrews channeling a bit of that Queen of Soul self-possession. She owned the stage and there was no question it was exactly where she belonged.