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Laura Cantrell

Humming By The Flowered Vine – 2005 (Matador)

Reviewed by T.J. Simon

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CDs by Laura Cantrell

Laura Cantrell is the New York-based host of the classic and alternative country radio program "Radio Thrift Shop" on WFMU (archived on the web at www.radiothriftshop.com). As a musical performer, she has garnered critical praise and high-profile fans including Elvis Costello, Joan Baez and Ralph Stanley. On her third full-length, the honey-voiced songstress evokes the sound of Nancy Griffith, Iris DeMent or Patty Griffin.

Cantrell called in some favors and assembled a supporting cast of nearly 20 musicians who add strings, pedal steel and organs to the pretty compositions. The songs include some captivating contemporary covers including Jenifer Jackson's "What You Said," Dave Schramm's "And Still" and Lucinda Williams' previously-unrecorded ode to NYC living, "Letters."

Cantrell's original material is best represented by "California Rose," which showcases some staggeringly good guitar picking and an infectious chorus. Her encyclopedic knowledge of country history shines through on her Skeeter Davis-inspired adaptation of Wynn Stewart's "Wishful Thinking" as well as her recording of the traditional murder ballad, 'Poor Ellen Smith."

Country fans with a sense of history and an appreciation for smart lyrics packaged in an acoustic cocoon will appreciate this delightful little record.