Laura Cantrell

No Way There from Here

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Laura Cantrell's career is a lovely example of the virtues of quality over quantity. No Way There from Here is only the fifth studio album Cantrell has released since 2000, and her first dominated by original material since Humming by the Flowered Vine in 2005, but while she doesn't record often, when she does she delivers something special, and No Way There from Here ranks with the strongest and most mature work she's created to date. Like nearly all of Cantrell's work, this album displays a strong country influence, and with Cantrell writing the bulk of the songs for a change and recording in Nashville, Tennessee (where she was born and raised), No Way There from Here feels personal in a way her earlier albums did not, as fine as they were. But while the country undertow of this music feels pure and natural, there's as much pop and contemporary folk in the arrangements, and instead of looking to the past, these songs are very much of the here and now, as Cantrell tells stories of women trying to make sense of their lives as they struggle with life and love. Just as the music is a mix of styles that complement each other well, Cantrell revels in the complicated lives of the characters in her songs, whose circumstances range from the joyous attraction of "Can't Wait" to the rejection of "Barely Said a Thing" and the struggle to make sense of it all in "Washday Blues," an especially powerful three-song sequence that comes near the end of the disc. Cantrell's songwriting is splendid here, and her singing is every bit as effective, with her clear, strong vocals sounding as real as an overheard conversation throughout, and with an intelligence that doesn't allow excessive histrionics. Expertly arranged and produced, and written and performed with smarts and compassion, No Way There from Here demonstrates that Laura Cantrell remains one of the best and most thoughtful singer/songwriters working in roots music today, and while it would be great if we heard from her more often, as long as she makes albums as excellent as this, she should be allowed to take just as long as she needs.

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