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Cantrell continues to satisfy

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., March 10, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Laura Cantrell may never be a country star. Not at this stage of her career when she's 50, touring here and there and releasing new music every few years or so. But five albums in, Cantrell continues as a warm, enjoyable and worthy purveyor of her brand of country.

That would mean going towards a more traditional side, not rushing the songs along and putting emphasis of the interplay with her band. As usual, Cantrell was a most comfortable performer.

Adopting the role of a teacher, Cantrell was educational in her performance. Saying that she does "State of Country" shows in New York where she lives by giving a nod to a particular state, on this night, the emphasis on this night was Massachusetts with a two-song mini-set.

The Nashville native turned in a good reading of "Have You Ever Been Lonely?" a song written in 1932 by Bay State resident Billy Hill (the song became a posthumous hit for the doctored recording of Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline) where she captured the sadness of it with a slow, deliberate take.

Far less successful was "Heads Carolina, Tails California," a hit for Jo Dee Messina. She is simply a more powerful singer. Here, like elsewhere during her show, Cantrell lost pitch for a few bars before righting herself.

Cantrell, who has a show on George Harrison on SiriusXM satellite radio, played "I Live For You," a Harrison outtake, which Cantrell referred to as the "country George Harrison" song due to pedal steel on the recording. One wouldn't necessarily think of Cantrell and The Beatles in the same breath, but Cantrell showed that this was a plausible connection.

Cantrell may not have any new release to tour behind, but she did offer a new song apiece - both of quality - during the regular set and encore.

As for her band, Cantrell employed a few strong local players, particularly Jimmy Ryan on mandolin and Mark Spencer (the two were in Blood Oranges decades ago with Spencer now in New York) on acoustic guitar, lap steel and a lot of backing vocals. Cantrell let everyone have their chance to shine, a smart move.

That summed up Cantrell. She put care and thought into her songs and show. Some vocal issues aside, Cantrell maintained her status as a consistently satisfying performer, who does not forget her country past.

Freebo is best known as his stint for eight years as Bonnie Raitt's bassist. By his 40s, he decided to try his hand at writing songs. Freebo had an easy-going low-key demeanor, shining most on the novelty song "She Loves My Dog More Than Me." Pleasant enough, but his voice is also on the very thin side.