When The Roses Bloom Again proves that old Peely was right on the money. Let those...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
When Laura Cantrell's last album Not The Tremblin' Kind was declared by none other than our very own John Peel to be possibly his favourite album of the last ten years the music world of couldn't help but sit up and listen. If a country folk album by a New Yorker and released on an up and coming Scottish independent label didn't sound the most promising thing in the world When The Roses Bloom Again proves that it was no fluke and that old Peely was right on the money. Let those with sympathetic ears listen and spread the word.
Using the same team of producer and guitarist Jay Sherman-Godfrey of the World Famous Blue Jays and a fine ensemble featuring the accomplished pedal steel of Jon Graboff, Cantrell has settled on a winning formula. Mixing self-written originals with songs by fellow NYC roots rock veterans Joe Flood (who also worked with Kelly Willis) and Amy Rigby amongst others she delivers a solid four-to-the-floor set that rings with Byrds-like guitar figures (Flood's "All The Same To You" and "Vaguest Idea") and retains a Merle Haggard simplicity; especially on her version of "Yonder Comes A Freight Train". Not a belter in the vocal department, she manages to retain a charming fragility while knowing enough to be able to inject humour and colour where its needed ("Too Late For Tonight").
None of this is surprising when you consider that though a Gotham city resident, she hails from Nashville and has an alternative career as a DJ - hence the ability to spot fine material when she sees it. The finest example of this is the A P Carter-penned title track, that retains the Wilco arrangement (bestowed upon it from its days as a contender for their Billy Bragg collaboration, Mermaid Avenue). Its mandolin-driven lilt is perfectly pitched to appeal to all those recent bluegrass converts and alt country fiends alike. Such assured knowledge of musical roots and contemporary trends puts her easily in the same league as, say, The Handsome Family, though a little less dark or ironic.
Ultimately though, its her own material that seems to offer the most promise. The storytelling of "Mountain Ferns", is by far the most affecting of the cuts on offer. We can only hope that - with such plaudits already being gathered - next time around she has the confidence to offer us more of herself. In the meantime, this will do just fine.
Like This? Try These:
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Kelly Willis - Easy