Laura Cantrell, and So Can You


Laura Cantrell, whom you might recognize as the woman in They Might Be Giants’ “The Guitar,” has a residency this month at Union Hall in Brooklyn. Every Tuesday she plays with a different musician or band, and this time it was the Human Hearts featuring Franklin Bruno. Frank is actually her neighbor in Queens and a professor, according to what she said between songs. His band was pretty good, although the song that stuck with me the most was the very first one about cheap sunglasses, which was less of a rock number than the others.

Laura didn’t show up until late, her reason being that her daughter’s choral concert ran late, so she ended up doing soundcheck on stage after Frank’s set. I haven’t been to any of her other shows this month, and she said she wanted to switch up the setlist between them, which meant she played a fair amount from her first two albums this time. She mentioned that the first one, Not the Tremblin’ Kind, was recorded in the producer’s apartment, and you could sometimes hear the refrigerator on the finished product. We also learned that her original AOL screen name was “MelbaFan” after Melba Montgomery, who originally recorded “Somewhere, Some Night.”

Frank played the keyboard throughout most of her set, but he switched to guitar and lead vocals for a cover of “I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande),” a 1936 song written by Johnny Mercer as sort of a parody of the singing cowboy genre, but that country musicians liked anyway. The song “All the Same to You” was preceded by a story about how a drunken couple at another show kept calling out “Excuse me for living!”, and she didn’t realize that it was meant as a request for that song (it’s the first line).

I don’t think it’s any surprise that I’d particularly like that one as well, since it has a lot of wordplay. I looked it up, and the writer is Americana musician Joe Flood, who also wrote “Pile of Woe.” Here’s a video of him performing it live:

After the show, I got a picture with her where I look weird, which is pretty much par for the course as far as such things go.

You know, twenty-three years and having a child don’t really seem to aged her all that much.

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