A true unplugged set this evening. Wearing a short olive dress and perched confidently on the record shop front desk, Courtney Marie Andrews was charming the 25 strong audience with cuts from the new LP. Without the piano and pedal steel of the album, the songs shift from the smooth neo-country textures and take on a surprising indie feel, perhaps explaining the Zane Lowe endorsement.
There is something to be said for performing without microphone. It brings huge freedom and encourages intent listening. The simplicity and honesty of her songwriting is brought to the fore.
Some forty years ago the customers of Rough Trade had pretty much decided that songs about being on the road were old hat. The walls are still lined by record sleeves of the X ray Spex, the Lurkers, Penetration and the like. Minutes before Courtney climbed on to the counter a young woman had bought a vinyl copy of Lust for Life. But at least half the songs that CMA (yes!) plays here are about the road and all of them work honestly and beautifully. Perhaps the reason that numbers like Not the End, Table for One and Put the Fire Out all work is that they are little 3 minute epics capturing loneliness, feelings of isolation, solitude and homecoming that many of us can relate to.
After six songs from Honest Life, she jumps down from the counter, and starts working through the queue signing her album. The cover – a close up head shot with name and title written in small lettering in the top corner, reminiscent of how all solo artists, from Judy Collins to David Cassidy, were packaged in the early 70’s. I leave, and, walking through the streets of W11, I look to the gloom laden sky and picture a Laker jet heading off to the west. On it would be Courtney, seat 1c. Her guitar (Martin of course) occupying 1b. And I guess she would write a pretty good song about that.