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Laura Benitez & The Heartache Laura Benitez & The Heartache
Album: With All It's Thorns
Label: Copperhead
Tracks: 11

Nothing less than a modern-day country album, solid and unpretentious, and it contains plenty of classic contemporary songwriting in the classic country mould. But hey, let's not underplay the achievement here. This is Laura's third record - its predecessors For Duty Or For Love (2010) and Heartless Woman (2014) brought her increasing numbers of admirers for her straightahead, largely autobiographical songs telling of love and ultimately heartbreak.

With All Its Thorns continues in the same approved vein, but with a stronger, more confident expression - and a tight and focused, yet commendably relaxed backing band (The Heartache) that can turn their hand to roots cajun and Mex to complement their country credentials. The nucleus sound of guitars, pedal steel, bass and drums now incorporates fiddle and accordion for added spice, but also embraces simpler acoustic textures on a couple of numbers as required.

All of which move naturally from the questioning spirit of Something Better Than A Broken Heart and the stripped-back Why Does It Matter? to the rockabilly-style twang of Whiskey Makes Me Love You, the honky-tonk of The Fool I Am Right Now and the enticing conjunto of Almost the Right One/Casi Mi Cielo, with the story-song Ghostship and the old-timey (in the Dolly Parton sense) Nora Went Down The Mountain providing even further contrast. Laura's both a fearless storyteller and darned good singer, and this is a great little album, full of memorable material.

David Kidman