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I Saw Laura Cantrell in Church

Laura Cantrell, live at St. John the Evangelist, Oxford

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by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: May, 2016
Laura Cantrell, onstage at St. John the Evangelist, Oxford

Laura Cantrell
live at St. John the Evangelist,
May 2016

We go back a long way with Laura, mainly because we just love her music and she has been there for many of the critical moments in our lives... At McCabe's guitar shop in Santa Monica on a first date with the now Mrs. X. OMG Oh wow! Later at the El Ray on Wilshire Blvd, popping in on our way to a Salsa dancing lesson at Jimmy Smit's and Jennifer Lopez's divinely decorated and for a decade now defunct Conga Room. And she featured prominently on the Cedar's playlist that welcomed baby O into the world too. So, see, returning to church didn't seem so bad since Laura Cantrell was to be there. And wow was she!

A tour to reintroduce the world to the wonders of those older BBC sets somehow inadvertently missed DisBearwood entirely and so we found ourselves in the Hyperloop down to Oxford, and sure enough alongside enough silver surfers to fill a church, disembarked in the coach park of St. John the Evangelist Church and Arts Centre which was just a beautiful setting for a show.

I've gotta say there's something about Laura Cantrell's beautiful, timeless restraint that reminds me of about first 5 minutes of Philomena Begley's career in the 70s which was all over the leisure time of our house when I was a small child. Less West Coast country informed by the Beatles and more Pomeroy, what the Hell. Makes me think of my dad peeling potatoes.

Church interiors are so incredible and so over engineered, all of those inconsiderately erected columns destroying the sitelines from the sides, it might be easy to imagine there was an awful lot of labour beholdin' to higher powers or something, man I had to wander all the way up to the third row to get a view at all.

Anyway. Laura Cantrell opened her show with Can't Wait from 2013s No Way There From Here. I love the way that song eases into life and comes together and the pent anticipation and dancing round the kitchen lyric, like we do now after school while making the dinner waiting for Mrs X to come in. And then Mark Spencer plays more immaculate notes on his guitar on that simple two minute country song than I've played making in the Bearwood Camp Club and I've been working on Songs For Older Skins for 32 years, since when skins were way younger. Planning ahead. That might be the last self-referential bit here, but might not be. But honestly Mark Spencer is literally the Deadpool of the guitar. He is. He is sensational and doesn't just make his guitar just talk, he coaxes out it's internal conversation with itself, wisecracking, reflecting and considering where the edges and the boundaries are and blurring them and bending them making lovely old songs live again. It reaches an apotheosis on rockin-ish, All The Same to You. There was something from an Elizabeth Price thing we saw earlier in the day, It's unusual for a restoration to be so indiscreet. Later when Mark sits at the piano, well, he makes it sound just like you'd always imagined a piano should sound. Lovely, languid and loose, caressing the songs to the rafters. They should cast Mark as Deadpool's nice dad in the sequel to the movie, then Laura's band could play in a club and they could meet there. Deadpool and his dad, Deadpool on guitar. And he has a great outfit too.

Meanwhile in Laura's boots, well I didn't know there was that much patent leather left in the world. And so the show goes. One more beautiful song atop another. So many favorites sung. And some sorely missed by being missing. My favorite all time Richard Hell stalker anthem for one. And the anecdotes, which are not ours to tell, had us smiling and still recounting days later as we pondered the fates of the tadpoles in our nature pond on a breezy rare sunny day in the garden.

Back in the hyperloop home, we'd loved the boots, but the textiles people in the back wondered about the heavy black skirt and t-shirt, musing, "She would look amazing in emerald green."

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