Not The Tremblin' Kind

Laura Cantrell

Diesel Only Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


I remember reading a newspaper article where a music director for a country-western radio station stated that he thanks God every day for rap music. If that seems a little odd to you, he explained that the reason he thanks God for rap is because it brought more people to country music.

I can't argue with him. The few times I have listened to a country radio station, I always hear a few songs that I know would have been considered "pop" twenty years ago. Mainstream country radio seems tohave absorbed the audience that used to listen to pop music, but perhaps finds today's popular songs too rhythm-oriented for their tastes.

I bring this up because I wonder: if country is gradually becoming pop music with a twang, then where does that leave country music that really sounds country? If you are Laura Cantrell, and you bring to your first CD, Not The Tremblin' Kind, that classic country vibe, then that leaves you without a ghost of a chance to get a hit on the charts.

Cantrell is known in the New York City area as the DJ for " The Radio Thrift Shopmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 ," which is heard on the free form radio station, WFMU-FM. She plays a lot of traditional country on her show, although she has been known to play pop, blues, jazz, folk, and any kind of music that strikes her fancy.

Not The Tremblin' Kind is not as eclectic as that. Cantrell stays pretty much in country territory, but she does show her love for the different sides of the music, and she is not afraid to bring pop songs into the country fold. For example, listen to her interpretation of the title song, which was written by fellow New York based songwriter George Usher. In Usher's hands, the song sounds like "Mr. Tambourine Man"-era Byrds. However, Cantrell, with her Tennessee warble (she sings like a cross between Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent), turns the song into pure country gold.

The rest of the CD alternates between hardcore country, and the lighter variety that is sometimes called Americana. Her Americana-oriented songs are solid: "Little Bit Of You", "Pile Of Woe" and "Two Seconds" are filled with soaring melodies, thoughful lyrics, and tasteful accompaniment on the guitar and mandolin.

However, Not The Tremblin' Kind is at its best when the tunes are more hardcore country. Cantrell wrote four of the twelve songs on the CD, and all of them are winners. The standouts are "Queen Of The Coast", which reminds me that country songs are best when they tell poignant stories, and "Churches On The Interstate", which has classic country written all over it, but is coming from a different perspective (let's just say that the Bible Belt would not be all that thrilled with the message).

But the most traditional country song on the CD is "The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter", written by singer/songwriter Amy Allison. The song is so drenched in twang, that it makes current country stars like Faith Hill sound like Christina Aguilera in comparison. This song also reminds me of another of country's strengths: the crying in your beer song.

The only missteps are when Not The Tremblin' Kind gets a little too eclectic. Cantrell doesn't sound terribly comfortable doing the trucker song "Big Wheel". And the most overtly pop song on the CD, "Do You Ever Think Of Me", is a pleasant enough ditty, but it sounds trite coming right after "The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter".

Overall, Not The Tremblin' Kind is a strong debut for Cantrell. She knows a good song when she hears one (or writes one), but the CD comes across like she is throwing ideas up in the air to see what will stick. That most of it does stick is to her credit, but if she can show a little bit more focus, her next release will be one awesome piece of work.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Diesel Only Records, and is used for informational purposes only.