IN a more just world, one of Courtney Marie Andrews’ songs would always be playing on a country radio station or what passes for a digital jukebox. Blessed with a beautiful, powerful voice and a bent for aching tunes, her Grammy award nomination for Old Flowers, her 2020 album, feels both just deserts and a career kick-starter.
While crossover success may still be ahead of her, she charmed the sold-out crowd with a solo set. The Arizona native has a soft spot for Leeds, even obliging a pushy celebrant with a few bars of Happy Birthday.
Without a band (too expensive if COVID calls while on tour), Andrews’ material sounded rather samey when stripped down. New tunes also ran in a similar vein, including a number inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Wire-thin support band Memorial provided light backing vocals to pleasing effect.
Andrews’ break-up clearly inspired her, as there are some wonderful songs on Old Flowers. To see her, eyes closed, really enunciating the words to How You Get Hurt, was to witness greatness – far more than a pretty voice, but someone with remarkable control to channel all that strength of feeling.
The elements, particularly the moon, loom large in her writing. Prefacing If I Told with a story about how the record’s cover photo came to be taken high on a full-moon Arizona hill, her off-mic vocalising provided the musical highlight to the set. Andrews perhaps leaned a little too much on the heartache button, but it clearly felt good. On record, Carnival Dream drags, but live she made it both shorter and sweeter.
While the newest album took centre stage, Andrews also wisely drew from her back catalogue throughout. The 75-minute set ended with a lovely version of Rough Around The Edges. Dinner For One, always a standout in her sets, showed her at her best; singularly sad and hummable.
Review by Paul Rhodes