COUNTRY Cantrell takes a risk on dream
The 10-track album combines a classic country motif with a modern contemporary flair.
By JOHN BENSON
Laura Cantrell knows firsthand what it's like to work in a cutthroat business.
So when it came time for the Nashville native and New York City resident to decide whether to leave behind a successful career on Wall Street for an uncertain future in the music industry, the neo country singer, who at that point had released two critically acclaimed and largely underground albums, "Not the Tremblin' Kind" (2000) and "When the Roses Bloom Again" (2002), didn't flinch regarding a move from one bottom-line world to another.
"I think when I decided to make my own album, that was sort of a concrete decision that I realized I was taking a more serious turn towards putting my best foot forward as a musician," Cantrell said calling from her home. "I still didn't know whether that would mean I could afford to not work full time and every other day here I'm still wondering."
Taking time off
Two years removed from turning in her pink slip, Cantrell, who hosted a weekly college radio show and performed often in the Big Apple, said a good indication that she needed to switch professions came when she had to use all of her vacation time to tour with Elvis Costello.
If one is looking for a sign from above, this was the proverbial burning bush for Cantrell, who soon found herself set free of the business world grind with all her time spent focusing on her third studio album, the recently released "Humming by the Flowered Vine."
"I wanted to do something people would be able to appreciate," Cantrell said. "I don't know if we did it on purpose to do the quietly compelling thing, but we wanted songs that were not just surface but that had a little lingering meaning or value to them."
That appears to be the case with the 10-track album, which combines a classic country motif with a modern contemporary flair that easily strays into an adult alt rock sound. Notable songs include the long-lost Lucinda Williams demo track "Letters," as well as the obscure Appalachian murder ballad "Poor Ellen Smith," which was published in Ethel Park Richardson's 1927 book "American Mountain Songs." Ironically, after recording the latter song, Cantrell discovered Richardson was her great, great aunt.
So far, so good
So far critics have raved over "Humming by the Flowered Vine," with Cantrell looking forward to touring the project over the next year with her acoustic backing band, which she says translates her traditional country material into a "really fun contemporary take" that creates a bluegrass, three-part harmony good time. Cantrell and her band are scheduled to perform Aug. 16 at the Beachland Ballroom.
"The first time I made a record, I didn't know what I was doing," Cantrell said. "This record, I was very adamant that I would be absolutely 100 percent absorbed in the process and that was really excellent for me. I took every creative decision really seriously and I got really lost in the songs and the choices and how should we approach this arrangement and that one."