[28 July 2011]
Kitty Wells was best known for her megahit from the ‘50s, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. That song made her the first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts. She became the first contemporary female country star and set the template for the plainspoken, tough talking country female vocalists that followed in her wake. Fans have christened Wells the “Queen of Country Music”, and modern singer-songwriter Laura Cantrell certainly shares that sentiment. Cantrell’s latest release Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music includes a heartfelt version of “Honky Tonk Angels” in addition to eight other songs associated with Wells and one original song in tribute to the Queen, “Kitty Wells Dresses”. Cantrell takes a restrained approach to the material. She lets the little trills in her voice convey the emotional depths. Cantrell refuses to milk the lyrics, which could tempt a less sophisticated singer. She knows that Wells’ strength could be found in her sense of self-possession. The instrumentalists play tight, decorating the songs with a light touch, but they stay in the background. No one takes a long solo, including Cantrell. The result is a finely crafted album that recalls the vintage sound of country music past.