Laura Cantrell demonstrated Wednesday night that she charmingly sings and plays with the same beautifully eclectic spirit as the music she lovingly champions on the long-running New York show "Radio Thrift Shop."
For her engaging 90-minute set at Iota, the Nashville-born New York resident fronted an outstanding band of players with ties to Hoboken -- guitarist Dave Schramm, drummer Doug Wygal, bassist Jeremy Chatzky and Jon Graboff on mandolin and pedal steel. Like the great DJ she is, Cantrell championed little-known talent, singing compositions by Amy Rigby ("Don't Break the Heart"), Beat Rodeo's Dan Prater (the jaunty "Do You Ever Think of Me") and two songs by New York writer Joe Flood ("Pile of Woe" and the soaring "All the Same to You"). There were also nods to Melba Montgomery ("Somewhere, Some Night") and Elvis Costello ("Indoor Fireworks"), who handpicked Cantrell to open part of his last U.S. tour. There was, of course, also music from her two albums.
And it was Cantrell's original songs that provided the evening's high points. "Early Years" skipped along like a vintage Buck Owens heartbreaker, her country music history tapestries "Queen of the Coast" and "Mountain Fern" were immaculately tasteful, and the gorgeous "Too Late for Tonight" was windows-down, elbows-in-the-breeze, 1970s AM radio magic.
-- Patrick Foster