Laura Cantrell – Americana via Scotland
Laura Cantrell has had a big influence on the country music scene in New York City, primarily through her role as the host of WFMU’s “Radio Thrift Shop”, where she spins a delightful mix of old country and alt-country and lots of music in-between every Saturday afternoon. In the past few years, however, Cantrell had taken to the stage, fronting a band and singing her own compositions and songs culled from songwriters of all stripes. In October, she released Not The Tremblin’ Kind on Diesel Only Records (the label run by her husband, Jeremy Tepper).
How she got to this point was more a matter of happenstance than planning. Through her work at WFMU, Cantrell established contact with Francis MacDonald, who plays with the Scottish country band Radio Sweethearts and has a label called Shoeshine Records. On vacation in Scotland, Jay Sherman-Godfrey, who produced and played guitar on Not The Tremblin’ Kind, left a two song demo of Cantrell’s music with MacDonald, who really liked what he heard.
“He kept calling me and asking if it was a record or if it was a demo,” Cantrell recalls. “There was no coherent plan. I had been playing out with a band. We had gotten to the point where we thought we sounded pretty good and decided to get some recording in. Like. ‘Let’s see what these songs sound like; we think they sound good but maybe they’re not as good as we think.’ It was very much an experiment.”
The results were released in the U.K. on Shoeshine in March 2000, and the reaction was astounding. Cantrell has since toured Britain three times, performed on Bob Harris’s country program on BBC2, and taped a session with legendary DJ John Peel on BBC1.
What Brits are reacting to is Cantrell’s disarmingly bright and clear vocals, easygoing yet highly effective musical backing, and an impressive selection of songs. Cantrell explains the choice to supplement her original material with a variety of covers simply. “I didn’t have a lot of songs that were fresh and new, not that I felt was a whole record worth anyway.”
Four of her own songs appear on the disc, including the sly country weeper “Queen Of The Coast”. The rest are mainly from songwriters who populate the New York City roots music scene, including George Usher, Amy Allison, Joe Flood and producer Godfrey.
“They’re songs that are familiar to me from going out and seeing bands around New York,” Cantrell explains. “One’s from Bob McCreedy of the Volebeats; I really loved that band and I played them a lot on the radio. These songs seemed like the right things to record when I didn’t have a bushel full of songs myself.”