Dusted Reviews

Laura Cantrell - Humming By The Flowered Vine

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Laura Cantrell

Album: Humming By The Flowered Vine

Label: Matador

Review date: Jul. 25, 2005

Don’t be fooled by the Matador logo: there’s very little “alt” in Laura Cantrell’s country. Her first two albums, released on Brooklyn indie Diesel Only, were accessible, amiable collections of uptempo country-rock, more stripped-down than today’s Nashville schlock but firmly rooted in tradition. Humming By the Flowered Vine, Cantrell’s first effort for Matador, sees some changes in style, but sticks with the audience-friendly approach of its predecessors. If anything, Humming is a little too friendly: its slick production and heart-tugging ballads sound like a direct appeal to the adult contemporary market already breached by the likes of Lucinda Williams (one of whose songs Cantrell performs here), Gillian Welch, and pretty much everybody on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

In theory, there may be nothing wrong with a desire for mainstream acceptance, but Cantrell’s music suffers for it. The 10 tracks on Humming feel considerably less immediate, organic and effortless than their counterparts on her previous two albums. This shortcoming is graver than it might sound, since much Cantrell’s appeal lies in her easygoing, almost guileless approach. The contagious joy in music-making so apparent in her earlier records is less apparent here, and an increased production budget may well be the cause. Cantrell’s skill as a songwriter and connoisseur of fine material is still very much in effect, but is often undercut by cluttered arrangements and poor production choices (the gratuitous and frankly puzzling use of synthesizers on “Khaki and Corduroy” and “Old Downtown” being a case in point).

Most importantly, Cantrell sounds less involved here as a performer, a problem glaringly apparent on “Poor Ellen Smith,” in which she recounts the tale of a falsely accused murderer as though describing a visit to the pet shop. Downtempo tracks like “And Still” and “Bees” suffer from a similar lack of expressiveness; Cantrell’s voice sounds too processed, as though she may be using a digital pitch corrector. The more traditionally-minded country of “What You Said” and “California Rose” suits her much better, emphasizing her clear voice and charming way with a melody over any deep emotion.

Humming By The Flowered Vine may sound like a perfectly admirable album to some, and may well succeed in garnering a fanbase for Laura Cantrell. Longtime fans, however, may notice the absence of some of the qualities that made her music such a joy to listen to in the first place. While far from a total letdown, Humming is certainly something of a disappointment.

By Michael Cramer

Other Reviews of Laura Cantrell

When the Roses Bloom Again

Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music

Read More

View all articles by Michael Cramer

Find out more about Matador

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.