Courtney Marie Andrews at The Keep, Guildford, review: Compelling performance from rising country star

Andrews has already proven she's a compelling songwriter - here she delivers on the live show as well

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"Thanks for sticking in here like sardines," greets singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews before her exquisite rendition of her lilting coming-of-age gem “Rookie Dreaming” from her latest album, Honest Life.  

This is the 26-year old's 12th straight night of performing live (she's mainly been supporting alt-country duo the Handsome Family) but her pristine, resonant vocals (she sounds like a blend of Emmylou Harris, Carole King and Linda Thompson) never flag; rather they soar in this tiny pub, or “tavern” as she charmingly describes it in this “awesome” (Andrews’ words) town.

At one point the elfin-like country musician (she made her name playing lead guitar for cult Americana star Darien Jurado) invites people to sit cross-legged before her in the “spit zone”, but the resolutely polite (and enthused) crowd remain standing for her generous - she plays 15 songs and two encores - and engaging set.

Affable Andrews, who is ably assisted by Bryan Daste on pedal steel, confides in us about everything from deadly cacti in the Arizona desert to her despair (“I cried into my beer) of Trump’s victory on election night. Her new protest song “Heart and Mind” – which she sung on the Washington Women’s March – is a lucid reflection of her anguish.

The Arizonian, who now calls Seattle her home, tended bars before the release of Honest Life and it's while serving “stiff drinks” that she dreamed up the some of the highlights on her (unbelievably) sixth album.

Country lament “How Your Heart Quickly Mends” (where she pleads "The jukebox is playing a sad country song/ For all the ugly Americans") and the rousing anthem “Irene” (on which she points out “You are a magnet Irene/ Sometimes good people draw troublesome things”), both sumptuously performed tonight, are part-based on the regulars (the likes of “Dancing Debbie” and “Talking Terry”) she encountered at the bar.

These two songs stand out along with the poignant “Table for One”, “Only in my Mind” and the joyful “Put the Fire Out”, all Honest Life tracks that recall the Laurel Canyon scene of the 1970s, Joni Mitchell and Jason Isbell, whose album Something More Than Free is set on repeat before and after her set.

Ryan Adams has already raved that Andrews is a “phenomenal songwriter” and on tonight’s evidence she’s a compelling and droll live performer, too. Don’t miss out.

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