By: Cat Veit

Album: 11 Chances
Artist: Courtney Fairchild
Label: Stanley Recordings

               It’s the voice. It’s the voice that will ultimately stop you dead in your tracks as you saunter drunk from the bar to the foul one-stall bathroom of a smoky club. It’s the kind of voice that evokes a sincerity and grit you feel deep inside, allowing you to almost telepathically envision the tortured life-story of an artist in one 4 minute song. If I heard singer-songwriter Courtney Fairchild in a bar, I’d stop too. Her 4th full length release, 11 Chances, recorded at a friend’s guesthouse in the summer of ’08 and with the help of “copious amounts of bourbon”, showcases a voice incredibly forlorn and original, yet a tad reminiscent of Tracy Chapman as she channels her soothing, warm alto register.
               Slick production works in tandem with a grassroots indie-folk sensibility peppered with organic banjos, upright pianos, mandolins and tambourines. Electro inspired keyboards occasionally tie it all together keeping the sound current and on point. Each track is painted with intellectual, thought provoking lyrics as candid as diary entries. Lost and unrequited love are just some of the enduring themes that ebb and flow throughout the 11 track record. “Sex drugs and Catholic guilt” eventually round it all out.
               In a particularly strong track, ‘Banjo Shaker’ she laments: “I’m in love with what really hurts,” a line and hook that will be keep most humming it in their heads for days upon first listen. Her lyrics continue with honest complexity: “every now and then I think that she’s in love with me, it’s usually when she’s drunk and she can barely stand to see.” Each love-lorn song feels like stops on an emotional road trip, with stories that guide the listener to the next roadside diner.
On ‘Nowhere in Texas’ her voice takes a wonderfully unexpected baritone dive, as she playfully toys with the listeners ears. At times you wonder if it’s the same voice from the earlier title track. Slow and melodic, the slide guitar grooves to illustrate her innate Texas roots.
Fairchild’s yearning continues as she contends: “they say don’t ask these questions the edge is too close, but they never held you so how would they know.” Fairchild closes the record with a final word on the state of the new music industry, putting it all into perspective with ‘Money Don’t Matter.’ She preaches: “when you’re praying for your biggest break to finding out there’s just no way, but the money don’t matter if the hope is gone.” With the help of an achingly beautiful voice and her veracious lyrics, 11 Chances defines her indifference and her pain, as well as an irrefutable sense of hope that sees her through an occasionally dispiriting landscape.