BY MICHAEL BERICK
Listening to No Way There From Here, it is hard to imagine that Laura Cantrell hasn’t done an album of original material since 2005’s Humming By The Flower Vine (her last CD was a 2011 Kitty Wells tribute). The Nashville-bred, Brooklyn-based Cantrell, who has been an Americana music ambassador since starting her WFMU-FM radio program show Radio Thrift Shop in the mid-90’s, and her co-producer Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Andrew Bird) to create a real jewel of album where the music is subtly rich blend of country, rock, pop and folk. Cantrell’s lyrics feel personal yet gently profound and her warm, compassionate vocals make it seem like you are listening to an old friend.
Cantrell kicks off the CD with the jangle-twang gem “All The Girls Are Complicated.” While initially suggesting a tart ode to “the ones who tend their looks to the ones who mind their books,” the tune winds up conveying a rather upbeat message: “all my friends are raving mad/they make so crazy but you know I’m glad/that I’ve got someone I can lean upon.” Throughout the album, in fact, Cantrell touches upon humanistic themes like appreciating one’s life. Tracks like “Starry Skies” and “Someday Sparrow” offer the reassuring thoughts that things wind up being all right and her one solo cover (Jennifer O’Connor’s “Beg Or Borrow Days”) holds a similar sense of hopefulness. Even the more melancholic tunes like “Letter She Sent,” and “Washday Blues,” where the central characters face disappointment and heartache, there are positive notes. When Cantrell sings “I’m just trying to get my clothes clean” in the latter tune, she expresses a self-empowering perseverance.
This upbeat spirit particularly inhabits a trilogy of love songs gathered together in disc’s latter half. The cheery “Driving Down Your Street” addresses the desire to be with her love, while “When It Comes To You” addresses the power of love (“when it comes to you/I’m just helpless/I don’t make sense”). In the enchanting “Can’t Wait,” she blissfully expresses the joy of anticipating her love’s arrival (“Singing in the kitchen with the radio on…when you come home darling I will fill your plate…I’ve been swinging darling on the garden gate/I can’t wait”). This song is among the several numbers on the disc that have a domestic settings and by rooting the lyrics in real situations help to make the emotions feel even more real.
On “Can’t Wait,” as well as on some other tunes, Cantrell recalls the work of Iris DeMent. The Nashville-bred, Brooklyn-based Cantrell mines a similar plaintive twang and unadorned lyricism; however, her sound is less rustic and (as “Can’t Wait” and “All The Girls Are Complicated” best exemplify) more hooky. Populated with smartly crafted, passionately performed songs, No Way There From Here stands as Cantrell’s best work to date and leaves the listener hoping that she doesn’t take as many years to make do her follow-up album.
DOWNLOAD: “Can’t Wait,” “Driving Down Your Street”