Andrews has made a unique and valuable statement.
Now more than ever, it’s good to have a friend with a free couch, and if it’s in a room that’s a little messy, than it’s just that much more comfortable. Courtney Marie Andrews might be that friend for us, or she might need that friend, but she’s thick in a world where open-heartedness combats the inevitable drain of living. May Your Kindness Remain looks at depression and hurt with empathy while offering, and longing for, a profound kindness. That Andrews does this while challenging her vocal skills and incorporating some stylistic variance to her country base makes the album a memorable declaration as well as a welcoming refuge.
The opening title track pleads for a broken woman to retain that kindness inside her, recognizing “You got a good heart even when it’s busted and bent.” Andrews’ rejection of money and physical beauty in favor of true mercy could come across as trite if she didn’t have just the right touch in her delivery. An electric guitar comes in halfway through the song, controlled and surprisingly fuzzy, and it adds determination to the track. Andrews doesn’t just wish for her friend at the bar to stay good, she wills it.
That guitar changes the tone of the song just enough to keep it from settling comfortably, and Andrews uses that sort of touch throughout the album. “Two Cold Nights in Buffalo” adds a touch of R&B bounce, with the organ and the late-arriving guitar coming from Memphis. Andrews doesn’t stray from her country influences, but in this setting, it’s possible to imagine her following Dusty Springfield rather than, say, Emmylou Harris. “Border” brings the blues-rock sound, and Andrews shifts her delivery to match, rubbing a little sand in her voice.
Whatever style she works in, Andrews keeps that voice center, and it never lets her down. “I’ve Hurt Worse” provides a complex character, someone sarcastic and bitter, but not fully making the move she wants regarding a rude (at best) lover. The song succeeds because Andrews manages to sound angry and hurt and regrettably in love all at once, depicting the song’s necessary ambiguity, even if it ultimately adds up to a potent kiss-off. She rarely goes for the big moment, as on “Kindness of Strangers,” but it’s clear her voice can carry a song alone.
It doesn’t have to. These songs feature a variety of heartbroken and life-worn characters, and following them leads to moments well worth investing in. The tracks – whether dealing with immigration or memory, romantic love or friendship – work through a variety of challenges and search for small but transcendent moments. “This House” comes from a voice that’s survived a variety of hurts and can take a moment for reflection. Andrews sings, “Tucker’s buried in the yard under that old oak we carved/ That porch is where you and I first kissed/ And there’s no shortage of laughter or love,” and decades of marriage, for better or worse, turn out to be worth it.
The search for profound kindness runs through the album, and the discoveries and offerings make it an encouraging listening even as it finds its way through depression. Andrews at times shows the pop sensibilities of Carole King to go with her the blue-collar awareness. With the artful blend of sounds into her country-based songwriting, she’s made a unique and valuable statement.