Courtney Marie Andrews latest appearance in Edinburgh marked the end of a two-month-long European tour. Taking the stage in trade-mark low-key fashion, she pointed out that she’d been losing members of her touring party over the last couple of weeks – not due to any misadventure, but just to a series of planned departures. The end result saw her reach Edinburgh entirely on her own, with a suitcase and a ticket back to the US for the next day: no band, no crew and not even any merch to sell. What she also had, though, was her guitar, a piano, her immense talent and a packed house in one of Edinburgh’s few remaining decent venues. She made very good use of the resources at her disposal.
It may well be that being back in Edinburgh, and on her own, gave her pause for reflection on how her career has taken off over the last few years: she shared with the audience that Edinburgh had a special resonance for her as it was the first place she played on touching down this side of the Atlantic. Whilst the absence of her band would have been a disappointment for some of the audience, the intimacy of a solo show did have its compensations. Between songs, Andrews has a low-key stage presence but she still has plenty to say in her quiet and charming way. What’s clear from her stories of life on the road is the dedication with which she’s worked on building her career. She talked wryly about the times she was living alone in her van and her struggles to find somewhere safe and secure to park up at the end of a gig. For any young musician, that’s quite a thought, and it left the audience in little doubt about her fearlessness and determination as an artist.
Most of the songs from her live set are from her last album, the sublime ‘Old Flowers‘, and across her entire set the songs are delivered impeccably. The sweet purity of her remarkable voice dominates the evening, but without the band backing her, and with the focus solely on her, you can’t help but be constantly struck by her talent as a lyricist. She sings of wistful regrets and disappointments – in old friends, ex-lovers and sometimes in herself – and giving voice to her own experiences of loss and loneliness. She’s also a very talented guitarist and there was not a fluffed note from start to finish.
She said she was still recovering from what sounded like an especially riotous gig on the Isle of Eigg a couple of days prior that she claimed had broken her – from her wistful smile, we can assume being broken on Eigg wasn’t too terrible an experience. She surely must also have been unsettled by the departure of all her touring companions and it would have been understandable if her mind was already drifting to the long journey home the next morning. Nevertheless, Andrews still delivered all that could be asked of her in terms of the outstanding quality of her music and her performance, and she fully deserved the rapturous response she got from the audience.
The support for the evening was US-based Alexia Avina. She has a delicate, ethereal voice and she sang over a series of reverb and delay-soaked, glitchy loops, while picking out melodies on her powder-blue offset guitar. It was fine, and she does have a lovely voice, but it didn’t feel like a great fit for a Courtney Marie Andrews audience that couldn’t always find the gaps between loops to applaud politely. The rest of Avina’s dates are supporting Vetiver around the UK, and she might find those audiences more attuned and appreciative of what she’s doing.
I came away from the gig hugely impressed with Andrews as a songwriter and performer. Blessed with such across-the-board talent and strength she looks set for even greater things. With a new album ‘Loose Future’ slated for release on 7th October via Fat Possum, thankfully we won’t have long to wait until we find out what she has in store for us next.
Photos courtesy of Nick Barber