Laura Cantrell: No Way There From Here (Thrift Shop/Southbound)

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Laura Cantrell: Letter She Sent
Laura Cantrell: No Way There From Here (Thrift Shop/Southbound)

Cantrell is emblematic of what “country” can mean today.

Nashville-born (where she hosted an oldtime music radio show), she studied law and accountancy in New York which is now her home, and she's a sometime contributor to the New York Times. At 46 she's recorded half a dozen albums, was a darling of influential DJ John Peel in the UK, yet hasn't lost a connection to roots music, notably when she did tribute album to innovative and daring women in country music.

She's smart, educated, attractive (nice photo-shoots) but still “authentic”.

Here she sings of lying in the cool green grass, highways and hard times, Tennessee, life's disappointments (Letter She Sent with Jim Lauderdale on harmony vocals), love's yearning with expectation (the banjo-embellished but inconclusive Driving Down Your Street) and dreary broke-relationship domesticity (the moving Washday Blues).

Cantrell isn't alt.country – Taylor Swift could grow into this thoughtful pop-country – so this is considered Nashville music (the imagery on Glass Armour) which connects to deep roots.

But – in a same-same voice which can pall over 40 minutes – this tells of those ordinary but special emotions of love, helplessness and neediness which link us all.  

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