Laura Cantrell knows and loves good music too well to be a purist, and while her first two albums, Not the Tremblin' Kind and When the Roses Bloom Again, were firmly grounded in her great fondness for country music, she expands her boundaries a bit on her third set (and first for Matador), Humming by the Flowered Vine. While the feel of Humming by the Flowered Vine isn't radically different than her previous work, the sound and arrangements offer some new wrinkles, with producer J.D. Foster and a superb cast of musicians edging Cantrell into an inventive pop direction. The pensive love song "14th Street," a strong but sorrowful reading of "And Still," and the rare Lucinda Williams composition "Letters" all speak of a riskier musical mindset than Cantrell has allowed herself in the past, and the results are beautifully expressive and gracefully executed while quietly bearing a considerable musical weight. Fans of Cantrell's more traditionally oriented work need not fret, as her lovely covers of "Wishful Thinking" and "Poor Ellen Smith" confirm she still has a superb command of classic country styles, and her voice has lost none of its lovely clarity while revealing an even greater emotional force on these sessions. And while Cantrell is a marvelous interpretive songwriter with nearly faultless taste, her originals rank with the album's finest material; "Khaki & Corduroy," "Old Downtown," and "Bees" are all crafted with the wisdom and care of a fine short story. Humming by the Flowered Vine is an album that's a joy to listen to without sounding simple or hollow, and resonates with an evocative beauty comprised of both compassion and intellect; this music easily raises the bar for this gifted artist.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming