Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell

Album Review: Courtney Marie Andrews–Honest Life

Rating: 10/10

Before I say anything, credit to trigger of Saving Country Music for bringing Courtney Marie Andrews into my life and now to my pen. There is a reason we do this–not to point out all the bad in the mainstream, but to introduce new and deserving artists to the world, to provide a platform for people seeking good music to find it. Enter Courtney Marie Andrews, a 25-year-old singer/songwriter from Phoenix, Arizona, and her latest album, Honest Life I will say two things about this record; firstly, it is not a country record, but more a folk record, with elements of country, rock, and pop mixed in, and secondly, it is the best album I have reviewed to date.

The album opens with “Rookie dreaming,” and the first lines immediately hold my attention and introduce the great songwriting that will be present throughout this entire album. “I was singing with the choir on the train. I was a traveling man, I did not yet have a name. I was a 1960s movie, I was a one-night love story, I was a you’ll never see me again.” This song features nice piano and acoustic guitar, and Courtney’s voice reminds me of an excellent cross between Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt. The style resembles Ronstadt too, with the blend of country, folk, and rock that was Linda’s signature. “Not the End” is a love song in which Andrews sings from a hotel bed where she is “dreaming up every memory” to feel closer to someone she loves. “I didn’t think it was possible to lose you again, so won’t you hold me and tell me that this is not the end.” If you didn’t hear Joni Mitchell in the opener, you certainly will here; the emotion and phrasing in Courtney’s voice is closer to Mitchell’s than anything I have heard.

“Irene” adopts a more folk/pop rock sound; here, Courtney gives advice to a woman named Irene, including “keep your grace” and “don’t go falling in love with yourself.” It is universal in that it is relatable to everyone, but also could be specific to anyone who hears it. “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” is the moment where you will recall Linda Ronstadt the most; here, a woman is “hiding out in the bathroom of this bar,” devastated that her ex is acting like they never met. She put on the dress he loved, and now she feels like a fool and can’t believe he is ignoring her–“go on, and leave with your new friends, how quickly your heart mends.” The piano and steel really stand out on this track. “Let the good One Go” is another heartbreak song, this one about a woman missing someone she apparently let go. She thinks about calling him and wonders if he thinks about her, saying, “Oh you will know, when you’ve let a good one go.” The light instrumentation on this song brings the emotion and lyrics to the forefront. “Honest Life,” the album’s title track, is another simple, acoustic song that feels very personal to Courtney. “All I’ve ever wanted is an honest life, to be the person that I really am inside, to tell you all the things that I did that night. Sometimes it just ain’t easy to live an honest life.” The songwriting is excellent on this whole album, but it may be the best here–ask me tomorrow, and I might change my mind.

The next three songs explore distance from those you love, similar to the theme introduced in “Not the End.” In “Table for One,” Courtney arrives in Ohio after a trip from Houston–the verses would suggest it might be on a tour–feeling lonely and ready to go home. “You don’t wanna be like me, this life, it ain’t free, always chained to when I leave.” This one is stripped down too and lets the lyrics and Courtney’s voice shine. “Put The Fire Out” brings back the piano and is closer to the sound of “How Quickly Your Heart Mends.” Here, Andrews sings from a plane, as she flies home to reunite with her loved ones and put her rambling life behind her. “I am ready to put the fire out. There’s a place for everything, and I think I know mine now.” This was the first one I heard from Courtney, and I’ll post it here because it should lead you to the rest of this record. “15 Highway Lines” is a similar song, but this one is focused on reuniting with the one you love after time apart;–“13 hours till I see you. Flying all around this world so you can see me too.” It really captures the love, pain, and hope unique to long-distance relationships. The album closes with “Only in my Mind,” another excellent song in which the narrator paints pictures of life with someone she loves, but these pictures are only in her mind, as the relationship has ended. It seems to be mainly her fault it is over, or at least she believes this. It’s another one that captures the emotion perfectly and closes the album brilliantly.

If you haven’t figured it out, this album is special. It isn’t strictly country; it’s a unique mix of folk, country, pop, and roc, with the perfect production for each track. It is one of those rare albums that defies and transcends genre lines and just speaks for itself. Courtney Marie Andrews has a voice you will not soon forget, recalling Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt, yet still unique. The songwriting on this album is nothing short of brilliant. It’s simple and complex at once. This album is both the poetry of Jason Isbell and the relatability of Vince Gill. It is raw and honest and real, and everyone should absolutely hear it.

Listen to Album

Female Fridays: Featuring Courtney Patton

For today’s Female Friday, I turn to the Texas scene to focus on a very underrated female, Courtney Patton.

How You Might Know Courtney

If you aren’t very familiar with the Texas scene, you probably won’t know her. If you are, she is the wife of better-known Texas artist Jason Eady.

Bio

From a 2014 interview with Galleywinter, on her musical influences:

Don Williams, James Taylor, old Willie Nelson. I love Carole King. She’s mellow, a killer songwriter back in the hippie days, and I grew up listening to that because that’s what my mom listened to. Joni Mitchell’s album Court and Spark, it’s real mellow too. Steve Wariner, ya know, like slow good, waltz-y country.

From a 2015 interview with Saving Country Music, when asked, “What is country music to Courtney Patton?”

Country music to me is simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement. And it’s cheap therapy to me (laughter).

Courtney Patton is gaining quite a reputation in the Texas music scene for those “simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” A singer-songwriter from Granbury, Texas, Courtney has independently released three albums, each with its own unique sound. Still Around (2008) is characterized by acoustic guitars and a mixture of traditional country and country-pop arrangements. Triggering a Flood (2013) brought Courtney her first real critical acclaim; this is a typical Texas country album, with a sound very similar to much of the red dirt music coming out of Oklahoma and Texas. So This is Life (2015) is, in Courtney’s own words, “a traditional country record”–Courtney raised funds for this on Kickstarter with this type of album in mind. So This is Life was
my introduction to Courtney, with its acoustic arrangements and excellent songwriting. I was immediately captured by her voice, and became a Courtney Patton fan the day I first heard her album. Since then, I have listened to her earlier albums as well, finding songs on both Triggering a Flood and Still Around that I enjoyed. Courtney Patton and Jason Eady have discussed a future duets album, which will likely be the next album to come from either of them, and that day cannot come soon enough because Jason Eady is incredible as well.

Since this column is about the promotion and discovery of talented females, it is important to share that in the SCM interview, Courtney was asked about females in the Texas music scene, as well as the Keith Hill controversy. It’s as hard, if not harder, for females to be successful in Texas as it is in Nashville. Courtney said,

It is incredibly hard for female artists. I’ve even admitted to being one of the females that prefers listening to men and I don’t even know why that is. I think there are a lot of really strong female writers out there right now that are proving me wrong. And that’s so great. I think that there’s always been more men since music has been around but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t just as many great women that aren’t being heard. I know that guy [Keith Hill] was a consultant and I know that he feels like he was misquoted a lot. Jason [Eady] and I went back and read what he wrote and he was just saying what he saw. But it’s a hurtful way to deliver a message that if radio stations play more women singers, their ratings will go down. I hate that. I’d like to say that’s radio’s problem for not figuring it out correctly. Our local radio guy, one of my favorite radio host’s named Shayne Hollinger, said, “There’s no reason for you not to play women because they’re out there and some of them are better than the men.” I believe that. I believe that there’s some really talented women out there that are better than some of the men that are being played. We just need to shut up and do our work and prove it. That problem has been there forever for women

Patton went on to say that men and women have different points of view and can tell different stories when writing songs.

Women are mothers and can be wise in those ways. They can be spouses to addicts and speak from being abused. There’s so many different ways to write a country song and it’s important to hear it from the woman’s perspective. Women can have subtleties that guys don’t. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m all for it (laughter). All my girlfriends are fantastic songwriters and singers and I know that much of what they’re doing can’t be done by a guy. And there’s things that guys can do that we can’t. It really takes both of us. I just hope that there’s as close to a level playing field as there can be because they deserve to be heard. I hope to be heard.

Why Courtney Belongs on Country Radio

Firstly, I am not going to use this to talk about why Texas and/or independent artists should get airplay and recognition by mainstream Nashville–that is its own point entirely and could cover multiple posts. This is about what Courtney brings to the table in the Texas scene and in country music as a whole. The answer is simple: her definition of country–“simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” Whenever someone asks you how you define “country”–and that happens a lot these days because apparently that definition has magically changed–refer them to this. Courtney Patton’s answer is the best possible answer, and her music is a wonderful reflection of her answer. Her songs tell about her parents’ divorce, (“So This is Life,”) one-night stands, (“Little Black Dress,” “Need for Wanting,” “Sure am Glad,”) marital problems, (“Battle These Blues,” “Her Next Move,” “Where I’ve Been,”) prison (“Killing Time,”)–and by the way, all those examples come from one album. That, my friends, is country. It’s raw and real, and there’s something relatable about that that Courtney Patton understands. Then, she takes all these songs and adds acoustic guitars, steel guitars, fiddles–and in the case of Triggering a Flood, a good Texas country blend of country and rock instrumentation–and her remarkable voice, and makes you feel something with nearly every song she sings. And by the way, someone needs to give Jason Aldean a Courtney Patton record, because I guarantee he will be able to tell her apart from the other women–if not, he is tone deaf and no one should be taking him seriously anyway.

Tracks I Recommend

1. “War of Art”–So This is Life
2. “Lamplight”–Triggering a Flood
3. “Need for Wanting”–So This is Life
4. “So This is Life”–So This is Life
5. “Little Black Dress”–So This is Life
6. “Where I’ve Been”–So This is Life [by the way, Jason Eady wrote this, which accounts for part of its awesomeness]
7. “Sure Am Glad”–So This is Life
8. “Better Man”–Triggering a Flood
9. “Light Fades”–Triggering a Flood
10. “Twelve Days”–So This is Life
11. “Ain’t Lovin’ Like This”–Triggering a Flood
12. “Still Around”–Still Around

Listen to Triggering a Flood

Listen to So This is Life