Laura Cantrell Reminds Fans Why They Missed Her

Laura Cantrell shone best with deeply felt interpretations of others' songs.
Laura Cantrell shone best with deeply felt interpretations of others' songs. (By Ted Barron)
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Monday, August 11, 2008

After a nearly three-year break following the birth of her first child, singer Laura Cantrell is back with a new album, and her engaging Saturday night show at Jammin' Java served as a welcome reminder of how refreshing her musical presence can be.

With a spry acoustic quartet anchored by guitarist Mark Spencer and mandolinist Jimmy Ryan, the 70-minute set featured several of Cantrell's modestly charming original songs, but soared on its cover versions. Not entirely surprising, given that Cantrell first made her mark with "Radio Thrift Shop," a radio show that explored all corners of country music. But no amount of record-spinning accounts for the kind of deeply felt interpretations displayed Saturday: Amy Rigby's "Don't Break the Heart," Roger Miller's "Train of Life," Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings," and her new recording's title track, "Trains and Boats and Planes," a nugget from Burt Bacharach via Dionne Warwick. Only one cover fell flat -- an ill-advised stumble through Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Two that came near the end of the set were clearly the highlights: Lambchop's "Cowboy on the Moon" was stripped of deadpan reminiscence and turned into a charming flashback, and the finale, New Order's "Love Vigilantes," was re-imagined as a heartbreaking ballad. Both songs served as a fine reintroduction to Cantrell's unique talent.

-- Patrick Foster

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