Essentials: The Top Ten Laura Cantrell Songs

Nashville-born Laura Cantrell moved to New York to study English at Columbia University. There, her great interest in music blossomed although she was initially involved in indie rock with the band Bricks rather than the country music which she is now more famous for. She also befriended John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants and sang on their ‘Apollo 18’ album.

In addition to playing, she also started DJing on the university’s radio station and has continued this thread in her career to this day, for example hosting Dark Horse Radio’, a show about all things to do with George Harrison on SiriusXM. She also puts out a monthly programme States Of Country which explores regional diversity in country music. And if the playing, composing and DJing wasn’t enough, she has, quite impressively, also had a career in high finance.

Her first album Not The Tremblin’ Kind’, released in 2000, gathered great critical acclaim and had John Peel saying that it was my favourite record of the last ten years and possibly my life. Since then she has released When The Roses Bloom Again (2002), Humming By The Flowered Vine (2005), ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ (2008) ‘Kitty Wells’ Dresses: Songs Of The Queen Of Country Music’ (2011)  No Way There From Here’ (2013) and ‘Just Like A Rose’ (2023).

I first saw her live at the Manchester Academy in 2005 with her long-time collaborator Mark Spencer accompanying her on guitar. He can be seen in many of the clips below. Since then, I have seen a couple of fabulous whole-band gigs at the Brudenell in Leeds with last year’s being my favourite of the year. Laura has a good-humoured cheer and her passion for playing live shines through. She is refreshingly unpretentious- when asked by her promoter what the theme of her new album was, she replied that it was “just a bunch of new songs that I have written”.

It has been very hard to choose just ten songs from all the wonderful ones she has performed on her albums- I started with about twenty. In the end, I tended to choose more upbeat songs with her trademark catchy, ‘ear candy’ melodies and choruses, at the expense of some excellent but more low-key tracks. I find the chosen tracks uplifting and joyous and want to sing along to them. I also generally find her lyrics, which are obviously written from a woman’s point of view, either heartwarming, interesting or inspiring but also positive, even when dealing with life’s struggles.

Number 10: ‘Just Like A Rose’ (2023)

This, the title track from her latest excellent album, is a country-rock gem. It is rockier than most of her other work, but it is clear that Laura is a fan of rock as well as loving country music. Unfortunately, there isn‘t room for other tracks from the album, such as the other single Push The Swing and AWM-Bless, a song about the angry white men who seem to be dominating the US at present. On the latter Laura is much more political than usual, discussing her and other women’s similar anger, albeit about different issues, but also having some forgiveness in her heart.

Number 9: ‘Not The Tremblin’Kind’ (2000)

This is perhaps Laura’s most famous song. I heard it on an Americana compilation album, immediately fell in love with it and wanted to investigate more of her music. The theme of the song, which is found in others of hers, is of the singer standing up to male intimidation: It’s so bright, yet I’m not afraid to stand my ground/Cause you’ll find that you’re never gonna break me down. Inspiring stuff.

Number 8: ‘My Heart Goes Out To You’ (2000)

The most low-key song I have chosen, from her first album Not The Tremblin’ Kind. A poignant lament for a friend fallen on hard times, where the singer’s love has not been able to help them. 

Number 7: ‘Two Seconds’ (2000)

A beautiful song, again from Not The Tremblin’ Kind, seemingly about an intense but doomed relationship, addressed to another woman that the man is involved with. The clip looks as though it is from the end of the ‘Andrew Marr Show’ on the BBC.

Number 6: ‘Don’t Break The Heart’ (2002)

This warns someone not to leave their partner who loves and needs them: Don’t make the fatal error/Of thinking you’ll find someone better/Cause you won’t. It isn’t quite clear whether this is advice to a friend or pleading from the partner. With a beautiful melodic chorus and wonderful pedal steel, it is very memorable. From the When The Roses Bloom Again album.

Number 5: ‘When It Comes To You’ (2013)

A heartwarming song of love and devotion from No Way There From Here, where the singer just wants to be with her lover. On the clip below the mandolin gives it a slightly more bluegrass flavour than on the album, which works well.

Number 4: ‘Pile Of Woe’ (2000)

With great melodies throughout, the singer appears to be accepting that the world is a troubled place, but asking her lover to walk through it with her: “Take my hand upon the sand and walk beside the waters/Washing this pile of woe” 

Number 3: ‘All The Girls Are Complicated’ (2013)

This may not be everyone’s choice, but I really like it. A brilliant start to the No Way There From Here album. It is a great celebration of womanhood and female solidarity: All my friends are raving mad/Make me so crazy but you know I’m glad/That I’ve got someone I can lean upon”. A great video, too, featuring Laura’s daughter.

Number 2: ‘Do You Ever Think Of Me?’ (2000)

This is just one of these ‘singalong’ songs where the melody keeps popping up in your head. The singer is thinking about her lover (or prospective lover?) wondering if he is thinking about her when she is thinking about him.

Number 1: ‘Can’t Wait’ (2013)

Here the singer can’t wait for her partner to get home. The video is wonderfully silly and has a feel of the sixties sitcom ‘Bewitched’ where a suburban housewife in a ‘perfect’ home is also a witch with magical powers. Inanimate objects in the house have a mind of their own. Great fun.

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Nice article on Laura .Seen her twice on her visits to Bristol and both times she won us over. A fair choice of songs too.


Nice list of Laura songs,
Seen Laura 6 times from 2003 Academy gig to last years Night and Day one. I too was at the 2005 Manchester gig, with Holly Williams as support, your not going to get a much better night than that.

Pete Feldon

As always with these lists I’m expecting to find some songs I have not heard or overlooked, and hoping that one of my favourites will also be chosen. Usually I’m satisfied on both counts, but not this time. Great list but no appearance of ‘The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter’. But it turns out I’m in a minority here. I looked it up on the list of her most streamed songs on Apple Music and it’s number 112!