Laura Cantrell pays homage to Kitty Wells
Friday, April 1, 2011
– Laura Cantrell will get her Kitty well jones out with "Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music" dropping on Tuesday, May 17.
Fans can go to Cantrell's web site to download a free MP3 of Cantrell's original composition, Kitty Wells Dresses.
Nashville born and New York based, Cantrell has often celebrated the women of country music, both on her own acclaimed albums and her long-running "Radio Thrift Shop" program on WFMU.
The CD was prompted by Cantrell's invitation in May 2009 from the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville to present a musical program for their "Kitty Wells: Queen of Country Music" exhibit. Inspired by the first-ever solo exhibit dedicated to a female Hall of Fame member, Cantrell composed an original song with friend Amy Allison called Kitty Wells Dresses. She also reacquainted herself with Wells repertoire, rediscovering old favorites like I Don't Claim To Be An Angel and I Gave My Wedding Dress Away, songs she'd been performing since she'd first started playing music. After the concert, she decided to make a recording honoring the sound and songs of Wells, whose trailblazing commercial and artistic achievements made her Country Music's first female superstar.
"I've been a Kitty Wells fan since childhood," said Cantrell, "inheriting my regard for her music from my father's family from West Tennessee. While preparing for the Hall of Fame show, I was reminded how great her music is and how wrong it seems that it is not better remembered today. I always responded to the fundamental feeling in Wells' singing, her way of sounding both emotional and restrained at once, a really affecting combination."
"Sadly, the casual country music fan of today doesn't know Wells' story beyond It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, the 1952 answer to Hank Thompson's Wild Side of Life that has become the short hand sum of her musical legacy - a reduction that bothers me greatly. In putting together this recording, I wanted to include some material written for Wells by her husband Johnnie Wright - of Johnnie & Jack and The Tennessee Mountain Boys. I wanted to represent her range - the songs specifically written from a woman's point of view like I Don't Claim To Be An Angel, the classic ballads, the cheating and heart songs that make up her body of work."
Cantrell recorded in Nashville with producer Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Andrew Bird's "Bowl of Fire, "Will Oldham), musicians Chris Scruggs (BR549, M Ward), Fats Kaplin (Kane Welch Kaplin), Paul Niehaus (Calexico) and a duet with BR549 frontman Chuck Mead One By One. "I made this record in my hometown with a great group of musicians dedicated to playing country music with a sense of its craft and history. I sincerely hope that listeners will rediscover the beauty and resilience of Kitty Wells and her music."
Cantrell has had a recording and performing career ever since she began releasing original material in 2000. In addition to her work as a DJ at New York radio stations such as WFMU and Columbia's WKCR (she graduated from the university), her early days as a performer started with groups like Bricks, led by future Superchunk/Merge Records kingpin Mac Macaughan. She eventually befriended John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, who recruited her to sing on the band's "Apollo 18" album and who later produced and released an EP of her original compositions.
Cantrell released her debut album "Not the Tremblin' Kind" in 2000. Her 2002 sophomore release "When the Roses Bloom Again" led to opening slots on Elvis Costello's 2002 U.S. tour. Cantrell's next release was in 2005 on Matador, "Humming by the Flowered Vine."
Her latest recording, "Trains and Boats and Planes," delivered interpretations of a diverse set of tunes including her bittersweet reading of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David-penned title track, along with poignant interpretations of Merle Haggard's Silver Wings and Roger Miller's Train of Life and a mournful reworking of New Order's Love Vigilantes.
At 91, Wells is the oldest living member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and her success opened the door for subsequent female superstars including Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.
Songs on the new CD are:
1. Kitty Wells Dresses
2. I Don't Claim To Be An Angel
3. Poison in Your Heart
4. One By One (with Chuck Mead)
5. I Can't Tell My Heart
6. It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
7. Making Believe
8. Amigo's Guitar
9. I Gave My Wedding Dress Away
10. Searching For A Soldier's Grave
Cantrell will celebrate the CD release with a special full band show at Hill Country BBQ in New York City on Thursday, May 19 and will perform at the Iron Horse (Northampton, Mass. on May 21), Club Passim (Cambridge, Mass. on May 23), Tin Angel (Philadelphia on June 3), Jammin Java (Vienna, Va. on June 4) and others to be announced.
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