Since making her debut in 2000, Cantrell has released a string of critically lauded albums. Her fascinating background story (late musical bloomer with a high-paying day job as a VP for Bank of America) and choice of genre (what the kids are calling “neo-traditionalist country” these days) have made her a darling of the NPR set. And it’s easy to see why: her songs are just the right blend of pensive and hopeful; her instrumentation authentic, yet pleasantly edgeless; her choice of material inspired. It also helps that she’s got the voice of an angel — clear, strong, and perfect for this type of song.
Humming by the Flowered Vine represents a budgetary leap for Cantrell; where her other albums were released and distributed by tiny regional or European labels, this time around, she’s thrown in with Matador, by now one of the established graybeards of the indie family. Correspondingly, her sound has been expanded a bit — Hummingbird has room for the traditional stuff that Cantrell’s fans have come to expect (”Poor Ellen Smith”) as well as pop-glossed hits in the making (”14th Street”). It won’t start a revolution, but for fans of Patty Griffin and folks for whom Gillian Welch is a little too edgy, this will make a fine Sunday morning soundtrack.