The result of the dissolution of a nine year relationship, this follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed May Your Kindness Remain sees Courtney Marie Andrews bravely lay her heart bare. The album is primarily made up of only three musicians: Andrews, Twain’s Matthew Davidson and Big Thief’s James Krovchenia. Its sparseness reflects its title and suits its subject matter: a woman, wilted and exhausted, ponders loneliness and her eventual recovery. Old Flowers is never bogged down in bitterness and Andrews repeatedly wishes her ex-partner well. Together or Alone demonstrates this well: a beautiful reflection on recovery and the value she places on the years she spent on her relationship. Though she is not afraid to wallow in her heartbreak – as with Carnival Dreams’ rather hopeless lyricism – recovery and gratitude are ever-present themes and this is far braver and more intelligent expression of heartbreak than the thousands of break-up albums which rely on easy bitterness and which, unfortunately, saturate the indie-folk market.
In terms of sheer vocal power, Andrews demands comparisons to the greats: Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Shirley Collins, Vashti Bunyan and the like. As a songwriter, she sits comfortably on the shoulders of Dolly Parton, Carole King and Kate Bush. These comparisons may sound hyperbolic but, honestly, there really isn’t anything to dislike about Old Flowers. As pure an expression of loneliness and heartbreak one is likely to find this side of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, it’s damn-near perfect.
These songs are simple, slight and unpretentious; metaphors, as with the title track, are straightforward and effective; and Andrews is honest, nuanced and compassionate in her self-reflection. Ships in the Night, the perfect closer, sums this album up perfectly: harrowing, poignant but undoubtedly hopeful. As break-up albums go, Old Flowers is the sort of thing that comes around once in a decade. Courtney Marie Andrews is destined to be considered as one of the greats and this may well be her Blue.