Laura Cantrell

When the Roses Bloom Again

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With her debut, Not the Tremblin' Kind, Brooklynite Laura Cantrell quietly made a great little Americana album that earned kudos across the board. The effort also found Cantrell, an award-winning DJ at New Jersey's famed WFMU who knows her way around a record collection, championing tracks by little-known yet top-notch songwriters. Expect more of the same from When the Roses Bloom Again; Cantrell has completely sidestepped the sophomore jinx with a wonderful album that builds upon the strengths of her debut. Listeners may be familiar with the title track (adapted from traditional lyrics) through the Wilco/Billy Bragg collaboration that finally surfaced on the Chelsea Walls soundtrack in early 2002. Cantrell steers away from the rolling drama of that rendering, however, opting instead for a more subtle approach that emphasizes her plaintive delivery and is bolstered by mandolin, fiddle, and stark percussion. And Cantrell's version is just as heart-rending. Cantrell is no vocal powerhouse, but she has found a way -- much like Merle Haggard -- to use her gifts to maximum effect. One hangs on every word and each phrase is a clarion call to sincerity. This album also finds Cantrell once again paying fine tribute to songwriter Joe Flood; the upbeat, Byrdsy performance of Flood's "All the Same to You" is one of the finest tracks here. Just as with her lauded radio show, the listener is in good hands with this album; Cantrell mixes classic country sensibility, pop chops, and a great taste in tunes to stirring effect.

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