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91. Laura Cantrell – Pile of Woe



Pile of Woe never shows off. And that modesty, coupled with a poignant set of lyrics and a gorgeous tune, makes it distinctly loveable. The key, as with much great country music, is the words/music juxtaposition. The general gist of “shit happens, so make compost” runs throughout the lyric, but any potential vocal moping is blanked by the band, which wags its finger at Cantrell’s frowns. Indeed, the background chimes encourage her to adopt a more stoic tone, and her delivery in the quieter third verse is surprisingly empowering for a song about unrequited love. There’s a nice lyrical dexterity in the chorus, too: “But now I’m looking out for rain with every grain of hope I sow” is a lovely way to flip a line – rain, a default ‘melancholy’ signpost in the pop lexicon, should make for a cliched opening, especially in a song called Pile of Woe. But here the rain’s turned on its head to be a source of joy, the stuff to help grow grains of hope, and those simple turns of phrase, sung in that sweet, wholesome twang, made Laura Cantrell one of John Peel’s favourite singers. It’s also the sort of stuff that raises this so far above your average country’n’western mush.

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