Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ast time through Beantown, Courtney Marie Andrews opened for Eleni Mandell across the river at the small, but very venerable Club Passim. Times have changed a lot thanks to a very well received "Honest Life" in 2016 and the residual acclaim. That ought to continue based on her far far-improved live performance and another strong album, "May Your Kindness Remain," which came out on Friday.
Andrews' calling card is her vocal delivery, which, at times, was simply stunning. She reached down and deep to put emotional muscle into her material numerous times. This was not some overwrought, over-emoted display of vocal prowess.
Instead, Andrews delved into her material with a real sense of conviction on such strong tunes as "Long Road Back to You," "I've Hurt Worse" and the more anthemic "This House." The country, soul, gospel and singer/songwriter tunes were a far cry from the pop punk she used to play when touring with Jimmy Eat World.
Despite being with Andrews for only two weeks, she often was expertly helped on backing vocals by keyboardist Greg Diarra. He added just the right contrast time and again to give the material even more depth even though he has been a member of the band for two weeks!
Guitarist Dillon Warnek was a tour de force as well with a lot of twangy elements to his playing. Andrews mixed it up by playing mainly acoustic guitar, but also keyboards on a few songs.
Much to her credit, Andrews has grown into a more comfortable presence onstage, something lacking at Club Passim. There's a confidence that she displays, while maintaining a warm demeanor (having one perhaps overzealous female fan shouting out a number of times how great she was could have helped).
The crowd may have been small, perhaps 40 people, but what that crowd witnessed was an artist is gaining more and more of a presence on the music scene. Andrews has earned the acclaim, deservedly so.
Matt Dorrien opened with a short set previewing his forthcoming disc. The Portland, Ore. resident has a full-bodied voice with a pop/songwriter sensibility to go along with his weighty material.
Dorrien, who usually employs a band, but was solo on keyboards, did not rush through slower-paced songs, setting a serious tone. Doing so, he even gave a new emotion to "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music." With Dorrien, a sadness came through louder than the upbeat.
In fact, Dorrien made sadness sound pretty good.