Laura Cantrell – The Wardrobe, Leeds, 21st February 2014 1

Laura Cantrell – The Wardrobe, Leeds, 21st February 2014

John Peel plays country. It is now fourteen years since the late Radio 1 DJ championed Laura Cantrell’s début album Not The Tremblin’ Kind yet this decision of his still has the capacity to shock. Here, after all, was the undoubted arbiter of alternative cool promoting the merits of what was a far more conventional form of music. It seemed scarcely credible. But should you choose to spend some time in the company of this forty six year old Nashvillian you can hear exactly why Margrave of the Marshes once described Not The Tremblin’ Kind as not only his favourite record of the previous ten years but possibly his entire life.

During the course of a sublime, quite beautifully weighted ninety minute set at The Wardrobe in Leeds tonight, Cantrell traces a wonderful arc across the length and breadth of her entire back catalogue. There is an ample handful of tunes from the aforementioned first album – the closing song to the main set, ‘Do You Ever Think Of Me’ being a particular highlight; a couple from its follow-up When The Roses Bloom Again – the stunning title track and the sixth and final encore of Ray Pennington’s ‘Yonder Comes A Freight Train’;  the unerring cover of Lucinda Williams’  ‘Letters’ drawn from the 2005 release Humming By The Flowered Vine; Burt Bacharach’s timeless ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’, which had earlier set the night’s wheels in perfect motion; another album title song, this time ‘Kitty Wells Dresses’, Cantrell’s respectful homage to one of the true queens of country music; and, finally, from her very recently released fifth full length album No Way There From Here, half a dozen equally exquisite songs which confirmed that the last few years spent in motherhood and away from music had not dimmed either Cantrell’s creativity or honest commitment to her craft.

With an explicit acknowledgement of her presence in the North of England (albeit on the “wrong” side of the012aa Pennines), and for which she and her excellent accompanist on guitar Mark Spencer are joined on stage by Jonny Brown and Blair Murray, this evening’s support act and members of those Mancunian indie stalwarts Twisted Wheel, Cantrell entrances us with ‘Love Vigilantes’. As totally compelling as it was unexpected, her reading of New Order’s reflection on the Vietnam War is genuinely moving.

You would have to travel many a country mile to experience music as apparently simple, yet just as downright impressive as this. Cantrell’s voice is as clear and pure as a mountain stream and remains absolutely pitch-perfect throughout. Whether she is interpreting the work of others or playing her own material, Laura Cantrell remains unfailingly true to the spirit of the song.  After all, John Peel was a man who knew a thing or two about music.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.