I am more accustomed to writing about Country singers or songwriters who have come from New York City to live in Nashville. Laura Cantrell is singular in many ways, but certainly in the respect that she was born in Nashville and is a great Country singer living for quite a few years in or around New York City.
For more than a decade she has piloted the popular radio show Radio Thrift Shop (on WFMU in Jersey City, 12-3 p.m. on Saturdays, 91.1 on your dial or RealAudio streaming at www.wfmu.org). Her superior abilities as a song finder are well demonstrated here, as they always are on her recordings. (On the new CD, Laura cut a vintage Lucinda Williams song called "Letters" that a friend had on a tape of from the 70s. On the downloads section of her site there's a smokin' version of it live from McCabe's in Santa Monica, with Jimmy Ryan on mandolin, Mark Spencer on guitar, and Jeremy Chatzky on bass.)
There is a double-edged quality to her singing style that has moved many others the way that it instantly affected me. It's been described as both passionate and businesslike, or vulnerable and determined, which is how it struck me. Alluring, and yet aloof. But she's turned on the tea baggers and the Yanks alike. The late BBC radio icon John Peel was a huge supporter of hers, and called her CD Not the Tremblin Kind "My favourite record of the last ten years, and possibly my life..." His countryman Elvis Costello asked Laura personally to open 17 dates on his tour, and contributed a blockbuster quote of his own: "If Kitty Wells made Rubber Soul, it would sound like Laura Cantrell." And there you have it folks, as the artist is known to say at the end of her radio shows...
Laura Cantrell's partner in crime is her husband Jeremy Tepper, the founder of Diesel Only Records, her original label before she leapt to Matador on her new disc Humming By The Flowered Vine. Jeremy is himself a musician and a fine writer, having co-authored one of my favorite Jim Lauderdale tunes, "Diesel, Diesel, Diesel." His label specializes in truck driving songs of many varieties, but also includes recordings by the likes of Joe Flood, Amy Allison, Mojo Nixon, and tasty others.
With lawyers for parents, perhaps it's natural that this country siren went to Columbia and rose to corporate VP in a Wall Street investment firm, though it's a humorously enviable pedigree for a singer in this day and age. Consider how difficult it must be to walk away from that security, as Cantrell has with this latest record, and become a full time artist. With all she has accomplished as a part time artist, and with the AAA and college radio push by Matador Records, it will be very interesting to follow her trajectory.
We consider her a very important and influential Country artist, in the original and highest definition of the term. She's class, quality, and style. continue to interview