Although May Your Kindness Remain was predominately written on the road it's not a road record like its predecessor. That is, it's not so much inspired by Courtney Marie Andrews' life on the road so much as it is by the people she's met along the way. It's an inward reflection on the connectivity of their stories and her own. May Your Kindness Remain is full of vivid depictions of complex people and places with all too common struggles. Much of the album deals with the psychological and relational impact of the unrealistic picture of success that is so embedded in modern American culture. There are no simple answers in these songs. There's just an acknowledgment of our shared hardships and a call for empathy. Despite its characters' burdens, May Your Kindness Remain isn't downtrodden. There's a defiance built into its melancholy, a sense that even the most complicated problems are worth facing - a sentiment that also explains why the album's music refuses to stay within any rigid sonic boundaries.
While Andrews self-produced Honest Life, she knew this one had to be different and enlisted the talents of producer Mark Howard who has worked with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Tom Waits. While May Your Kindness Remain is Andrews' fullest sounding record to date, the songs and her vocals are never eclipsed. "Mark's really good about stripping the song down to the bones, and asking, ‘Where is the song in this? And how do we make the song come out while still having great instrumentation?'" Andrews recalls. Still, the album's arrangements are meticulous. Every instrument and sound on the album has their proper place, across diverse styles: proud piano ballads ("Rough Around the Edges"); easygoing, country-tinted rock ("Kindness of Strangers"); and biting, sarcastic folk gems ("I've Hurt Worse"). Gospel singer C.C. White adds backing vocals throughout, including on the stunning title track, a striking statement of purpose that blooms at the end thanks to layers of soulful harmonies.
Andrews' own vocals are notably more powerful and soulful - especially on the organ-heavy blues number "Border," with a ragged weariness that honors the immigrant's resilience in the face of blatant thoughtlessness and racism; and "Took You Up," a take on accepting love as a simple offering before any illusion of wealth or success. Her vocal performances reflect her recent listening habits, which include Motown and soul, as well as albums by the eclectic rock band Little Feat. They also point to her confidence and growing range as a live vocalist.