From memory, this was the third leg of UK Courtney Marie dates in 2018, and the first one to stop off in the West-East Midlands corridor. The centerpiece of the August trip was a slot at the Green Man Festival, so there was a full band in tow this time. Earlier in the year, she had played some solo dates including a sublime show in an Oxford church, which had set the bar exceedingly high for an evening of such depth and immersive quality.
Inevitably, comparative thoughts turned to that February evening when Courtney first introduced many of the songs from the new album. Now they bristled in full grandeur complete with the entire four-piece backing band including keys, drums and the twin guitar attack of bass and electric lead. The backdrop allowed Courtney to be more expressive in how the songs projected. A supreme moment from this show saw Courtney ditch the guitar to vocally sink deeper into ‘Rough Around the Edges’. The breadth and wider extent to her vocal capability came alive more in this show, adding a very soulful side to the quintessential folk singer hitting an abundance of pristine notes. Where else can you marvel at a significant tribute to Aretha Franklin in the shape of ‘Chain of Fools’ alongside the heartfelt ramblings packed into ‘This House’.
One constant between the Oxford and Nottingham shows was the absorbing mesmerising gaze that protrudes from Courtney’s eyes, representing an artist finding solace in an entranced zone. One that successfully snares a willing audience.
‘Long Road Back to You’ is the perfect idealistic closer, settled in the final slot on the new album, so what better role reversal than to open your set with it. Courtney Marie Andrews does not always conform to the norm. Additionally, ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ opens the record and this evening crowned the pre-encore set with a spine tingling rendition prior to the quintet taking the short obligatory disappearance before the evening’s final two songs.
For this Nottingham show, we had a solo version of ‘Honest Life’ upon the return before the band also appeared to serenade us all on our way home with ‘Irene’. Wholly from a selfish viewpoint, it was disappointing that ‘Took You Up’ did not make the set list, but at least if you are going to leave one of the year’s standout songs on the sidelines you know that the replacements will be good.
The Rescue Rooms is a curious venue. On one hand, it possesses a cold corporate feel aligned with the soulless O2 shells up and down the land, but it does have a sound sweet spot that has chiselled out some memorable nights over the last couple of years. Chuck Prophet was my gig of the year in 2017 and Katzenjammer hit the spot on a previous visit. There is little doubt that Courtney Marie Andrews will be up there when the annals of 2018 are written with Oxford and Nottingham perhaps sharing a twin billing in their contrasting glory.
The evening was not without a slight hiccup as Courtney halted ‘Table for One’ while a touch of correction to the audience was applied. Sorry Courtney, you were wrong in suggesting that they could stay. Normal service quickly resumed and we were once left in the hands, voice and presence of an artist possessing the most compelling of skillful aura and an architect of some of the most beautiful and cathartic music you can find.
Courtney Marie Andrews is a treasure that gleams a little brighter with each show, record and artistic adaption. A strong contender for all round artist of the year is a given and one review that is worth the wait even in the midst of a busy cultural period.