After the birth of my daughter, I found myself at home more than I had been in years. Before baby, I had traveled a lot, venturing to England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and across the U.S. playing music. Walking the floors at all hours with an infant, I couldn’t shake the idea that a music life was moving faster out there somewhere, far out of my reach. From the confines of my apartment, I also missed my friends in far-flung places; stopovers in Dublin and Glasgow had been a welcome perk of traveling to play music. As I struggled to get some perspective on life as a new mom, I couldn’t
help but feel some days that those hectic jaunts up and down the M and A roads, subsisting on coffee and 85p sandwiches were a thing of the permanent past.

So what is an urban, country singing mom to do? Turn to the solace of her band of course! On lucky days I took refuge in the company of music friends in NY, wringing every bit of feeling I could out of songs we’d been playing live in places like Mo Pitkins House of Satisfaction (now dearly departed) and 11th Street Bar. “Trains and planes are passing by, they mean a trip to Paris or Rome, for someone else but not for me.” Like an adolescent with a newly broken heart, all these traveling songs began to sound like they were written just for me, “Train, Train don’t leave me, train of Life.” I’m not sure who suggested it, but I decided to record a few of those traveling tunes using “Trains And Boats And Planes” as a theme for a set of music.

Often when songs mention travel, they anticipate the heartache of separation and the tragedy of loss. We found plenty of both in the epic “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.” Two of my favorite country songs, Roger Miller’s “Train of Life” and Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings,” approach the subject of being left behind from different perspectives. My band and I had been fooling around with a John Hartford tune from the album Morning Bugleabout the great aviator Howard Hughes’ last days. Jimmy Ryan suggested we record New Order’s “Love Vigilantes,” which we’d merrily abused at sound
checks and backstage. But approaching that song in the calm dark of Brooklyn’s Tape Kitchen studios, it transformed itself from a brash war commentary into a ghost story. Those never have a happy ending.

Along the way, I was honored by the music brought by my very talented cohorts, Jeremy Chatzky, Steve Goulding, Ted Reichman, Jimmy Ryan and Mark Spencer. And we were thrilled to have Jenny Scheinman join us for a couple of songs, lending her beautiful violin playing and sweet singing as well. By the time we were mixing, my now not-so-little baby was tearing apart the studio and things had started to feel right in the world again. Planes and boats and trains are passing by, and we’ll be flagging them down soon enough.

Laura Cantrell
Jackson Heights, NY

January 2008