TELL TALE SIGNS
When I was on tour about four or five years ago, I decided to go deeper into Dylan’s catalogue. There’s so much to uncover. I was working with this producer, Mark Howard; he had a lot of sessions that were outtakes for this record, and I became obsessed. I really like the reflective element of it – these are his nostalgic years where he’s kinda an old wise man reflecting on his life. There was a time when I listened to nothing but this record, and it’s become my favourite Dylan record. I feel like I learn more when an old man or woman is singing a song because you really believe the stories behind their years.
This is a recent favourite that the producer for my new record sent me when we were talking about our favourite productions. I fell into the well on this one. The production, the social stances that he takes on the record during that time are still important, the cultural relativism – it’s just so good. And his voice is insane; as a singer it’s probably one of my favourite voices. Also, there’s harp on this record, which is so cool that that happened in 1970. Harp on a funk record, yeah!
WORLD WITHOUT TEARS
LOST HIGHWAY, 2003
I’ve listened to Lucinda Williams’ music since I was a kid – she’s a deep, deep inspiration for my own music. I first became attached to Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, which is an all-time favourite as well, but I think in recent years I’ve gravitated to World Without Tears, because of the pain in her voice – it has a mark of this very particular moment in time, it feels like all of these songs were written in a month or something. It evokes a very certain feeling that I just love. I think “Fruits Of My Labor” is one of the best songs ever written by anyone – as a songwriter, it’s a world masterclass in songwriting.
It almost feels not fair to put this on a list – it should just be on everyone’s. It was the first Joni record I heard, and now that I’m older there are certainly records of hers that resonate more, but honestly, for me this one just beats all. It’s the perfect record song-wise; it has so many classics embedded in there. The vulnerability in her voice… It sounds like she’s about to cry on a lot of these songs. It all sounds so full, but there’s hardly anything happening, just a hand drum under some of these songs. It just goes to show that if it’s a good song it’ll carry the weight.
I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU
I got into this record when I was about seven.
I would sing it in my bedroom and knew every word. I learned to sing by listening to this – first I sang obnoxiously loud to try and match her power, then realised that’s not actually the technique. She’s the greatest singer of all time, and it’s incredible to me that these are one-take cuts in the studio – these are her having a go in one take. Also, her empowerment and the way she chose songs that really fit her is inspiring to me too. I’m forever a fan. I loved those gospel recordings that came out a couple of years back – just so good. She’s on another level.
Oh man, I was a Tom Waits naysayer in my early twenties. I just couldn’t get past his voice, even though I usually gravitate to strange voices. Then I heard the song “Take It With Me” from this album, my entire world flipped and I became the biggest Tom Waits fan you could ever meet! This is the perfect balance between his weird experimental stuff and his beautiful ballads, such a cool record. I’ve gone back through all his stuff now and I love his early work, but I’m still a sucker for his later records. I’m a big fan of artists’ demos, so I love [2006 boxset] Orphans especially. There are some gems on there. Poetically, he’s probably my favourite writer.
CANCIONES DE MI PADRE
I didn’t grow up listening to Linda Ronstadt even though we’re both from the same state, Arizona. But people kept drawing comparisons between us a bit, so I started getting into her catalogue. I knew the hits, but I went deeper and came across this record. I love the sound of mariachi music; it makes me feel at home, because growing up in Phoenix people are always blasting mariachi everywhere, down the highway and in backyards. When I hear the sound of it I feel at home, and when I get tired of understanding lyrics and words, I put this on and her voice is so soothing to me. It’s like my zen record!
It always surprises me that this record came out in the ’90s – it sounds like it could have been a follow-up to Harvest – but I love the songs, the harmonies are amazing, and just the feeling that this record evokes is really special. My dad is a huge Neil Young fan – he does a mean impersonation, so I grew up hearing Neil a lot. But if your parents like something, you want to buy a punk record instead, so I bought a lot of them before I bought a Neil record and realised he’s just as punk. He’s such a simple writer that it can be hard for it to resonate as a teenager – but once it does, man, there’s no-one else like Neil.
Courtney Marie Andrews appears at AmericanaFest UK, taking place virtually from Jan 26–28. Buy a ticket here!