Margo Price, Courtney Marie Andrews
Factory Theatre, Marrickville NSW
16th October 2018
Thanks to the good taste of tour promoters Love Police, October is the time of year when Sydney gets a handful of sideshows in the wake of the Out On The Weekend festival in Melbourne. This year the pick of the crop was undoubtedly Margo Price, the current queen of Americana in the wake of the success of her last two albums.
Opening honours went to another songwriter whose star is in the ascent, Courtney Marie Andrews. This was her third visit to Australia in the last 15 months and hands down the best set she’s played on Sydney soil. Accompanied by an electric guitarist, Andrews split her song selection between her third album Honest Life and the more expansive recent release May Your Kindness Remain, opening with Paintings From Michael, the only pre-Honest Life offering.
The immediate thing that hits you is Andrews’ voice. It’s an instrument that can draw you in with sweet lilting folk and then swell into soul and gospel-tinged grand gestures. It’s a powerful and exceptionally controlled sound that she conjure up. She moved from acoustic guitar to a keyboard for This House, a moving and soulful tribute to her childhood home, including a tribute to Tucker, the family dog. Her song Irene was a breakthrough moment for Andrews and it still resonates as a fine Joni Mitchell-tinged song, ringing out from the stage with a folk purity in its delivery. She left us with the title track from her current album and though its heavy and lush, soul sound was still conveyed beautifully, it would have been great to have heard it with a full band. Given Andrews’ increasing popularity, the opportunity to hear the full renditions of her songs will come sooner rather than later.
In contrast, Margo Price had a full five-piece band, complete with keys and pedal steel, and what a band they were. Note perfect and incredibly tight, without restricting the songs with session musician over-precision. Price has been in the game long enough, and played everywhere from small bars and festival stages to hallowed country music halls, that she’s built a show that works in all those venues. There was Elvis, Vegas-styled showmanship, gritty drinking and breakup songs, solo stabs at political commentary and indulgent and crowd pleasing extended band workouts. The latter saw Price jumping on drums, taking two songs into cosmic country, psych territory, like The Doors playing Nashville space-rock. It was glorious stuff and a nice counterpoint to the straighter country songs such as Hands Of Time, Tennessee Song, Hurtin’ (On The Bottle) and Wild Women.
The USA paean All American Made was performed solo on piano with Price admitting she’d hating piano lessons growing up. It added another element of variety to her set and showed that as well as possessing an authentic country croon, she draws just as effectively from soul and rock. The other highlights were aplenty. The gospel melodies of Do Right By Me, the sweet and hook laden A Little Pain and the Dolly Parton-sounding Don’t Say It. The Parton connection went full circle with an encore cover of the iconic track 9 To 5, reinforcing the importance of Price’s position as one of the torchbearers of modern Americana yet always drawing clear lines back to the heyday of classic 70s country and mixing it up with professionalism, a sense of fun and a rebellious glint in her eye.