Courtney Marie Andrews “Old Flowers” (Loose/Fat Possum Records, 2020)

Courtney Marie Andrews has gone from strength to strength since the release of her acclaimed 2018 album ‘May Your Kindness Remain’, earning an Emerging Artist of the Year nomination at the 2018 Americana Music Association Honors & Awards. She has also toured extensively, including shows with Brandi Carlile, The Head and the Heart, and the late John Prine. This latest release continues Andrews’ run of form; ‘Old Flowers’ is an achingly beautiful break-up record of the highest order. 

Coming out of an almost decade long relationship, Andrews has penned a set of songs which take in the whole spectrum of complicated thoughts and feelings which go along with such an experience. Starting out with feelings of guilt about having feelings for someone else (‘Guilty’), struggling to open up again (‘How You Get Hurt’) and finally acceptance and moving on (‘Ships In The Night’). The songs are constantly brilliant, and brutally honest – there’s no attempt to sugar coat things – and the often hypocritical and contradictory thought processes that emerge during a breakup are well documented. For example, on ‘Break The Spell’, Andrews sings “You say it’s cos you’re crazy, but that’s no excuse,” and in the following track, ‘It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault’, a wry exploration of the need to find someone to blame when things fall apart, she sings “It feels like I’ve gone crazy, like the women in my family usually do.”

The rollercoaster of seemingly incompatible thoughts and feelings is so wonderfully relatable and human that you can’t help be swept along with Andrews as she draws you into an extraordinarily intense and personal story about getting over heartbreak. As sad as it gets, it never feels morose or dirgey, and the tracks have twists of humour and dry self-awareness which makes them all the more engaging. 

Produced by Andrew Sarlo (Bon Ever, Big Thief), the intention in the studio was to focus on performance, making the songs as cathartic and minimal as possible. Sarlo wanted to keep the focus on Andrews’ voice and songwriting, and keep things feeling as organic as possible. They certainly succeeded in this regard; every track feels intimate and emotionally charged, with beautiful guitar, piano, and vocals from Andrews supplemented by Twain’s Matthew Davidson (bass, celeste, mellotron, pedal steel, piano, pump organ, Wurlitzer, background vocals) and Big Thief’s James Krivchenia (drums, percussion).

Of the album, Andrews has said “Old Flowers is about heartbreak. There are a million records and songs about that, but I did not lie when writing these songs. This album is about loving and caring for the person you know you can’t be with. It’s about being afraid to be vulnerable after you’ve been hurt. It’s about a woman who is alone, but okay with that, if it means truth. This was my truth this year—my nine-year relationship ended and I’m a woman alone in the world, but happy to know herself.” 

At it’s heart, this is a record about a journey – from confusion and pain, to a place of acceptance, and being able to wish your former other-half well. Andrews does this eloquently in the final track ‘Ships In The Night’: I hope that you find love/ settle down somewhere/ and I hope that this world sees who I see in you.” 

It’s easy to throw out comparisons when reviewing records, and many have compared Andrews to the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell. As well-meaning and deserved as these comparisons are, they don’t tell the whole story. Andrews is her own woman, and you should listen to her record. 

Achingly beautiful, funny, sad, hopeful. A breakup album for the ages.

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