Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
retty much stating the obvious, Nashville-raised, but New York City-based Laura Cantrell told the crowd at the Museum of Fine Arts, "It's funny. We usually play rock kind of venues. It's so quiet in here. It's kind of intimidating."
But after listening to Cantrell, a fine singer and good songwriter with a friendly stage presence, one has to take exception and wonder why someone of that type of talent should have been intimidated.
Cantrell hit the road one day after releasing the very strong "Humming by the Flowered Vine," her first album for Matador, a step up from several releases on her husband, Jeremy Tepper's Diesel Only label.
She played 8 of the album's 10 songs, starting with the lead-off "14th Street." There is a lot of good material on the album, and even though the crowd of 200 was probably almost entirely unfamiliar with the album, Cantrell made it quite easy to listen to and get into the material.
Cantrell studied at the Lucinda Williams School of Music, although she is not quite as gritty as Williams. After the show, Cantrell said she was actually going to Europe opening for Williams this summer, which makes perfect sense.
She was particularly strong on "Whiskey Makes You Sweet," an Amy Allison song.
Cantrell also has aided by a strong backing band of Mark Spencer on guitars, Jimmy Ryan on mandolin and Jeremy Chatzky on upright bass. Spencer and Ryan played together once upon a time in the Blood Oranges, though hadn't much played together in years. Despite the lack of recent time together, they clicked very nicely.
It will be interesting to see if Cantrell's career continues on the upswing with moving to a label of more prominence. Her musical abilities suggest that in a fair musical world, she should receive a career boost no matter what venue she chooses to play.
Paul Burch, on Bloodshot Records along with a member of the Lambchop collective, opened with a good solo set on acoustic guitar.
Burch sang well throughout his nearly 35-minute set, though he does not possess the beauty of voice that Cantrell does.
Burch tended to mine a bit of a folkie country territory though he went bluesy on "Love Sick Blues Boy," making for a nice change of pace.
He probably would have benefited from a band to flesh out his sound more, but Burch, who once upon a time lived in Boston, showed his abilities to good effect before a receptive audience.