Review: Laura Cantrell Finds the Sweet Smell of Renewed Success

Laura Cantrell/Just Like A Rose: The Anniversary Sessions/Propeller Sound Recordings
Four out of Five Stars

Laura Cantrell’s first new album in nearly a decade could be considered a comeback, and yet the fact that she enlisted any number of marquee names to assist in the studio suggests that she was possibly just waiting in the wings for the right time to make a move. Indeed, she assembled an impressive roster, one that includes Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, Rosie Flores, and Paul Burch, along with producers Don Fleming, Ed Stasium, and David Mansfield overseeing it all. Happily, the due diligence pays off. Just Like a Rose is an exceedingly upbeat collection, as typified by the opening track “Push the Swing,” the country caress of “Bide My Time,” the eager entreaty of “Brand New Eyes,” the reassuring resilience of “Holding You in my Heart,” and the steady sweep steering the title track.

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Notably, the album was originally scheduled for release on the 20th anniversary of Cantrell’s debut album in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. That particular predicament was the reason why a number of producers had to be involved, but yet despite that disparity, it’s a decidedly consistent effort. That’s all the more impressive considering that it’s been nine years since Cantrell’s last release. Not that she’s been idle. A series of singles preceded the album and at the same time, she’s been touring extensively throughout the U.S. and the U.K. 

That likely accounts for the confidence Cantrell exudes throughout. A re-recording of her own “When the Roses Bloom Again,” the title track of her second album, finds Earle sharing the lead vocal. It’s both bright and vibrant, evidence of the fact that even a prolonged absence hasn’t deterred her devotion to making music that rings and resonates even on first hearing. So too, the jaunty “Hello Mr. Afternoon” stands out courtesy of its sway and swagger. Closing track “AWM-Bless” offers some pointed commentary as well, laced with insightful observation.

Ultimately, Just Like a Rose is the kind of album that could be considered the culmination of a career that’s yet to amass the wider recognition it deserves. After 20 years toiling in the trenches, Cantrell achieved what could be considered the sweet smell of success.

Photo by Liz Tormes / Chart Room Media

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