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In some ways, being a touring musician is a lot like being an anthropologist. In traveling from city to city, you spend a lot of time interacting with strangers, whether it’s checking into the latest motel or stopping by a local watering hole for a drink after the show. You quickly pick up on how the shared quirks of a few small-town bartenders may actually tell a much larger story than a couple minutes of small talk initially reveal, or how the relationship squabbles overheard in the hotel lobby late at night share similar themes regardless of geographic locale.
Accordingly, touring is also a great way to find material for new songs. Courtney Marie Andrews did just that when writing her forthcoming album May Your Kindness Remain, a collection of songs, borne from interactions with others, that strives for healing and empathy in the midst of division and discord.
On the album’s title track, Andrews seems to look back on all the folks she’s met over the years to offer up, as its title suggests, a little kindness. Addressing a lonely “underground queen” and a broke barfly “throwing [his or her] paycheck away,” Andrews positions kindness as an antidote both to broken-heartedness and to bad luck. Her mention of the latter gently tackles the ills of capitalism (“The richest of people aren’t rich with houses, cars, or fame,” she croons) without veering into self-righteous moralizing.
Sonically, the track signals a new direction for Andrews, who, alongside producer Mark Howard, ventures beyond acoustic folk and into gospel, soul, and rock over the course of the song’s four minutes. Gospel singer C.C. White lends emotive backing vocals, punctuating Andrews’ verses with soulful “oohs” which build to a crescendo in the song’s latter half. A dissonant, distorted instrumental bridge gives way to a quiet final verse before Andrews, White and the band bring the whole thing home in a chorus buoyed by vulnerable bombast.
While the idea of an “American dream” is becoming murkier by the day and kind words among strangers — particularly online — can feel at a premium, the lessons Andrews has learned traveling the country are, ultimately, optimistic ones. Even if some of us are lucky enough to keep our money from running out, all our good looks will certainly fade, and “busted,” “bent” hearts spare no one. In the end, all we’re really after is a little kindness.