Country Jukebox Jury LPs: Courtney Marie Andrews and Chloe Jones

Courtney Marie Andrews – Loose Future

Courtney is a big name in American roots music. She was inspired by Lucinda Williams and brought out a book of verse in 2021. Her voice would fit snugly next to that of Laura Marling or Brandi Carlile, or indeed Big Thief, whose producer Sam Evian is behind the boards here. She’s on Fat Possum, the same label as The Black Keys and The Weather Station, making her the kind of act you can imagine graphic designers humming along to as Courtney’s music plays on BBC 6 Music.

This 10-track set begins with a gorgeous title track with plenty for Fleetwood Mac or Taylor Swift fans to admire (yep, this is American music). ‘I’ll keep pretending that I want you’ locates this album in the same tenor as Rumours or Blue by Joni Mitchell, who remains a key influence on what may be called Joniesque some day (we know it as Roots/Americana). First Aid Kit fans, patiently waiting for the duo’s own new album next month, will have their appetites sated by Loose Future.

Satellite, the big single, is hooky and tender, with Courtney’s vocals double-tracked, while Thinkin’ On You makes heartbreak sound glorious, with the melody in opposition to the lyric. You Do What You Want paints a mellifluous tableau, complete with lap steel guitar, of a man whom women forgive.

That song is indebted to Drunken Angel by Lucinda Williams to such an extent that Courtney has set the lyrics for the verses over that song’s chords. Maybe she’ll run them together in concert. She launched the album with two sets at Rough Trade stores in Bristol and Brick Lane and she will return to Europe in March 2023. A month-long tour will take in France, Germany, Scandinavia and the UK.

A highlight is sure to be the date at KOKO in Mornington Crescent, which will reverberate to songs like Let Her Go, a mood piece where Courtney hits some high notes and describes a manic-pixie-ish dream girl who is ‘an emotional Aries dancing to Tim McGraw’ and ‘in her past life she was a willow tree’.

There are plenty of maxims among the melodies and string accompaniment: ‘life is better without plans’ (Older Now); ‘I’ve gotten used to moving on’ (On The Line); ‘people like me think feelings are facts’ (These Are The Good Old Days, which opens in a car). Change My Mind opens with the line ‘I don’t recognize the way you see me’ and continues with the narrator telling us she is ‘looking for new ways to be let down’.

Me & Jerry, the album’s closing track, summarises the musical and lyrical aims of a lovely album with much to say about love, loss and the human condition. And isn’t that country music in a sentence?

Chloe Jones – Sundown

Chloe is so far off my radar that she didn’t make it into my Bubbling Under Top 40 Chart, with apologies. I had filled the Top 40 before the release at the end of September of the new EP, and before the announcement that Chloe had been nominated for BCMA Female Vocalist of the Year alongside Sarah Louise, Jade Helliwell, Kezia Gill and Emilia Quinn. Sorry!!

Chloe is from Manchester and her influences include Brandi Carlile, Fleetwood Mac and, topically, Courtney Marie Andrews, so I hope Chloe is enjoying Loose Future. The Mancunian launched the EP at the excellent Eagle Inn in Salford as part of a month of gigs around the North-West, hitting Chorlton and Congleton as well. She’s in the North-West country crew along with Gary Quinn and Jade Helliwell and, accordingly, has played Country on the Clyde and Buckle and Boots, both of which Gary programs.

Damsel came out in 2020, New Mexico in 2021. The former is the sort of country song Patsy Cline would have sung, where the narrator cries out from a hotel room in Guatemala City ‘wishing more than anything that you can be here with me’. The latter is a tender tune full of words like ‘wilderness’ and ‘white sands’, plus a warm cello line.

The acoustic ditty Big Man Says also has some excellent strings which enrich a song about love and being ‘more than friends’. Crocodile is a slinky tune to match its title, full of reverberating guitars and brushed drums. Giving Up The Ghost begins ‘Who are we? We are drifters…’ and there’s some delightful pedal steel to underscore Chloe’s vocals.

A wise booker would let Chloe open for Courtney. Will any wise booker read this?

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