Courtney Robb

CD Review – Courtney Robb 2010 CD “Amid the Noise + the Haste…”

Genre: Courtney and Western

I’ll cut straight to point here. Courtney Robb carries two instruments; a melodious Maton guitar and a marvellously mellifluous voice. I believe they may be inseparable, conspiring to caress the walls of bars, clubs and country barflies across this land. Courtney has travelled broadly and done just that; I can hear it in her lyric.

Courtney is a singer-songwriter, and in one sense this is the easiest thing for a guitarist to be. They all embark upon the same journey – sitting in the bedroom, musing lyrically about the world they know. Many stay in their rooms, a few more impose their mediocrity on the world, and a smaller number appeal to a wider audience through their talent and sheer perseverance. Courtney Robb is one of the few emerging from the chrysalis that deserves to be heard.

My wife Sam found me listening to this CD. It’s rare for Sam and me to like the same music, but this CD was an exception, so we got to talking about it. Sam says it’s the kind of music two girls might listen to when they are having a heart-to-heart over a coffee (or a wine).

The songs sound like they were all written on the acoustic guitar, maybe in a big old comfy chair, maybe in a dusty truck-stop. Robert Johnson did it and his simple genius spawned generations of imitators. In the right hands the acoustic guitar can be magical. Like Johnson, Courtney has relied on herself, but she also knows when to call on friends; friends who can help her mould and develop her music. Even so, only 8 of the 14 songs are what I would call “band songs” – featuring a drummer and the sound a band might generate. The rest is pure Courtney, Maton, and some instrumental condiments to add flavour. This works for Courtney. It works for Sam. It works for me.

An Acoustic Chanteuse will inevitably produce her fair share of sad stories. The music industry is still a man’s world. Courtney sings of relationships, friends, lovers and disappointment. Weeks of introspection – thinking about what went wrong and why – can drive musical creativity. Courtney has dipped into her well of sorrow and loss to create some beautiful songs.

Opening with the country blues tune “Time” we are slowly dragging ourselves along a dusty road with a mandolin taunting our loss of youth. The slightly more upbeat progression of “Games” questions morality, asking us to put our choices in perspective. The first of the acoustic songs “Jaded” follows, also trying to put our existence into perspective, and in “Lies” Courtney despairs and cries that she’s not going to succumb to the lies and deceit that she despises.

With its pellucid chorus the lighter travelling song “Company” is probably the most commercial of songs in this collection.

Sung to a boy “A Step Back” has the girl taking control of the relationship when he has let her down. Perhaps this was written at the same time as “Playtime’s Over” – a more upbeat song aimed at an arrogant country boy who thinks all the girls want him. Courtney has met these boys a 100 times in a100 different towns; she knows how to handle them. The friend in “Reflections” is also a disappointment

The gentle acceptance of “Letting Go” reaches an emotional crescendo when Courtney is joined in by Simon Peter Hopkins in a vocal duet. This is a truly moving point in this collection of songs – I can’t even say why. Perhaps it is because I have followed Courtney into the depths of her introspection and now I rejoice that she has found a partner in harmony. My favourite song.

“Lazy Afternoons” is a musical stream of consciousness. What do I do when he’s left me? How do I survive? I miss him, but I need to get on with life and make him proud, even though he doesn’t care for me anymore.

“Good Intentions” and “Major Chords” continue the acoustic theme before rounding out the album with the chord progression of “More Like You” and the mellow “Waiting for You”. A suitable finale for the album – waiting for her lover to come home. Time to go to bed, disappointed.

This is a very personal album with Courtney’s emotional experiences laid bare. It is moving, emotive, at times sad, yet musically enjoyable. Like all good albums, this will be plucked from the collection to be heard again when the appropriate life events occur. Good music attaches itself to emotions, and “Amid the Noise + the Haste…” has achieved that.

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