The Cantrells

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The Cantrells
PO Box 121561 Nashville Tennessee 37212
(615) 292-1954

Use the following address to reach the Cantrells via the internet by removing the spaces and replacing "at" and "dot" with the proper symbols:

thecantrells at yahoo dot com (a source for large, high resolution, printable photos and press material) (listen to samples) (listen to samples)

"They blew my boots off..."

-"Ranger Doug" Green, Riders in the Sky

"Al and Emily Cantrell cast a magical spell with their airy, joyful acoustic songs. Emily Cantrell sings in a fluid, jazzy style reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, while husband Al plays off his wife's Martin guitar with spirited fiddling and a dazzling mandolin technique -- his music weaves through her words as if the two were locked together in an intuitive dance. The duo's fine album, Dancing With the Miller's Daughter, puts a pop spin on acoustic folk music, with occasional detours into Celtic and traditional American tunes."

-Michael McCall, Nashville Scene

The Cantrells have been bringing their unique style of acoustic music to a growing number of fans across the country since before their marriage in 1985. Their music has been featured on National Public Radio's "Mountain Stage" and "Riders Radio Theater" as well as numerous other local, regional and national radio programs. They were chosen by Robert Redford to appear playing old-time fiddle tunes in his hit movie "A River Runs Through It".

Fans of The Cantrells are sure to remember their first recording, Under a Southern Moon, engineered and mixed by Jim Rooney (producer for Nancy Griffith). Emily and Al teamed up with Bela Fleck (banjo/guitar), Fred "Too Slim" LaBour (bass) and "Ranger Doug" Green (baritone). This release received high praise in CASHBOX, BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED, BILLBOARD MAGAZINE and many others.

The Cantrells' second CD, A New Language, was released on the Turquoise label. Both albums have received heavy air play on radio stations featuring folk and bluegrass.

A New Language contains 10 songs from the pen of Emily Cantrell. The title cut has been broadcast all over the globe on "Voice of America." Joining Al and Emily are Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Mark Schatz on bass, Tim O'Brien on mandolin and John Magnie of the subdudes on accordion.

Fans of Tim O'Brien will recognize Emily's voice from the duet "Queen of Hearts," a DJ favorite from O'Brien's Flying Fish album Hard Year Blues.

With the release of their third disc, "Dancing with the Miller's Daughter", The Cantrells fulfilled fans' wishes for a recording of their pure concert sound.

The album includes seven songs from Emily Cantrell and one each from Bob Nolan, Kostas and Jim Schulz. The title comes from the lyrics of "Peaks of Otter," a song their audiences know from Emily's playing of the "fiddlesticks," or "straws," an old Appalachian tradition. Along with fiddle, mandolin and harmonies, Al featured his four-string octave mandolin (pitched a full octave below a traditional mandolin).

Their 4th CD:

2004 marked the release of The Cantrells' 4th CD, entitled "The Heart Wants What It Wants".

What folks are saying about Al & Emily Cantrell

"Emily Cantrell is one of my favorite singers. She could sing from the phone book and I'd be convinced. Al can fiddle and pick with the best."

-Tim O'Brien

"Best vocal duo since Roy Rogers and Dale Evans."

-Bela Fleck

"...a fresh breeze from the West."

-Peter Rowan

"She sings like an angel, he plays like the devil. Al's fiddling is superb."

-Robert K. Oermann,


"Emily simply has a beautiful voice--a velvety, expressive, rich soprano in a class with the best artists."

-Carin Joy Condon,

BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED (feature article)

Reviews -Under a Southern Moon

"They blew my boots off...I'm happy their very great talent, their eclectic taste, their beautiful harmony has been captured on record at last..."

-"Ranger Doug" Green, Riders in the Sky (from the liner notes)

"If you have been longing to hear some genuine, acoustic country music performed the way it used to be...then, look no farther than this excellent album. It is the most honest and unpretentious album I have heard in years."


"An airy, inventive, all-acoustic treat.



"Emily's gorgeous singing and Al's fiddle and mandolin make this a fireside favorite."

-Fred "Too Slim" LaBour, Riders in the Sky

Reviews - A New Language

"Two first-rate musicians come together like a rainbow--many colored and splendidly joined. What a pleasure! Do yourself a favor and listen up."

-Rosalie Sorrels (from the liner notes)

"Emily Cantrell is a magnificent songsmith... and within the being of these songs is the soul of bluegrass."

-Steve Romanoski,


"Emily's is a beautiful voice, among the best on the scene. Al succeeds where many other superpickers fail."


"Avoiding all the cliches, The Cantrells write and play like hot pros."


"A joy to hear."

-VICTORY REVIEW, Seattle, Washington

"Contemporary folk music is thriving, thanks to sparkling, fresh releases by artists such as husband and wife Al and Emily Cantrell."

-Ken Rosenbaum,

THE BLADE, Toledo, Ohio

"A New Language draws you in after just one listen."

-Stephen Ide, THE PATRIOT LEDGER, Quincy, Massachusetts

"All the songs are written and composed by Emily, and there is not a dud among them."

-David Royko (Chicago, Illinois)

"From your Under a Southern Moon to the latest A New Language there is much quality, character and wonderful music. Emily's songwriting on the latest is a treasure. Thank you."

-Jan McLaughlin, WMUB-FM, Oxford OH

In Concert

Whether performing live on the radio, on film, in the intimate setting of a coffeehouse or on stage before a thousand-strong festival audience, The Cantrells invariably deliver an exciting show that will warm your heart.

Including songs from all four of their recordings (the variety there alone allows for plenty of surprises), they add selections from their repertoire of over 400 bluegrass, western, western swing, Irish fiddle tunes, original contradance tunes, jazz standards, and even an occasional Broadway hit.

Emily's original songs span many categories, including newgrass, western, a cappella ballads, folk-rock --contemporary sounding, yet with strong links to older, traditional roots. Often writing about relationships, she uses images from nature and the West while avoiding predictable sentiments; a simple love song might reveal a deeper meaning through her poetic gifts.

The duet's sound features Emily's "startlingly clear" voice and "amazingly strong" rhythm guitar with Al's harmonies and instrumental talents.

Al adds his own lead vocals and constantly switches from "sizzling" award-winning fiddle to mandolin in his own style, drawing from influences as diverse as Jesse McReynolds and Jerry Garcia. Add Al's one-of-a-kind octave mandolin, Emily's "playing the straws," or "fiddlesticks," her punchy bass lines and the couple's "off the cuff" humor, and it's clear why they are a main stage act at major festivals.


Many promotional tools are available for a CANTRELLS concert, either as easy downloads from their web site or by request by mail: photos, color slides, press releases, promotional CDs for radio air play, full-color 11 x 17" posters, a biography, reviews, and sample articles.

Their tour dates are submitted to DIRTY LINEN and BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED and posted on their web pages and other internet music sites as well.

Radio air play is a focus for The Cantrells. Over 2700 promotional CDs have been delivered to radio stations, and air play reports are tracked by computer. Whenever possible The Cantrells do interviews on radio, television or for newspapers.

The Cantrells maintain an extensive list of fans and media contacts and this information is available to assist presenters.

Workshops and "Informances":

At festivals and schools The Cantrells always make fans and friends with their entertaining workshops, including "Instrumental and Singing Technique", "Harmony Singing", "Old-time and Irish Fiddle Tunes", "Blues Fiddle", "Swing Guitar", "Songwriting", and "Western Songs".


"A delightful team at providing very danceable tunes!"

-Ed Wilkinson, President, Nashville Country Dancers

The Cantrells include contradances and dance festivals in their tour schedule, with Emily adding piano. For years The Cantrells have played Nashville's Friday night dances as well as major dance camps and dance weekends, including the Pacific Northwest's Bear Hug Festival.

Al Cantrell has written an entire evening's worth of original tunes, mostly inspired by the New England contradance and Celtic repertoire. Several of his tunes have caught on with other popular contradance bands. He includes his own tunes in medleys with familiar New England-style and old-time favorites.

A pianist since age 4, Emily brings classical piano technique to the country "stride piano" style she heard growing up in Tennessee. The result is a driving rhythm, swinging bass line, romantic chord voicings and passionate dynamics. The Cantrells play contras with commanding improvisation and infectious joy.

Biography - Emily

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Emily Cantrell grew up on her family's cotton and soybean farm 65 miles north. Emily's neighbors and relatives would come over in the evenings with fiddles and banjos for "musicals" in the parlor.

In college she excelled in musical theater, claiming lead roles such as "Anna" in The King and I. Upon graduating with a degree in English literature, she entered music full time, playing in bluegrass bands around Tennessee, recording national jingles and visiting Nashville with plans to record an album.

Her husband at the time chose to study music in Boulder, Colorado, so Emily moved her musical plans to the West.

Biography - Al

Al Ehlers Cantrell grew up on a rural area of Puget Sound near Seattle. (Upon his marriage to Emily, Al chose to use her family name Cantrell both on and off stage.) The son of a professional organist, he grew up listening to his father play Bach fugues.

Al's first instruments were the ukelele, the piano and the kazoo. He began studying violin in fifth grade, but he entered his musical career as a rock bassist with his two brothers playing high school dances.

Al studied music and economics at the University of Washington before opting for full-time musical performance. He returned to the fiddle when he discovered the music of Bob Wills, Vassar Clements and Mark O'Connor. Soon he was winning contests such as Colorado's Bluegrass Fiddle Championship.

The fiddling of Kevin Burke inspired Al to study Irish fiddle in London and Ireland, where he learned ornamentation from Bothy Band's Tommy Peoples.

Biography - Al & Emily Cantrell

Al and Emily joined talents in Colorado, when Emily needed a fiddler for her Boulder-based bluegrass band. Al had been recommended to Emily by Tim O'Brien who had recorded the duet "Queen of Hearts" with Emily. The band broke up but Emily and Al stayed together, marrying in 1985.

Tim, impressed with Emily's talents, convinced the couple to move to Nashville. He gave Emily an entree by having her "demo" his song "Walk the Way the Wind Blows" and hand-deliver it to Warner Brothers (it was subsequently a number one hit for Kathy Mattea).

Notable Appearances:


The Cantrells appear in Robert Redford's movie A River Runs Through It, performing old-time fiddle tunes in the church picnic scene.

"Crook & Chase", The Nashville Network

Syndicated National Radio:

"Riders Radio Theater"

"Mountain Stage"

"E Town"

"Folk Sampler"

"Bluegrass Today"

"River City Folk"

"Rural Route III"

"Voice of America" (international)

"Ernest Tubb Radio Hour" (WSM- Nashville, Tennessee)

Print Media


(feature article)

Selected Concerts

Kerrville Folk Festival - Texas

Ann Arbor Folk Festival - Michigan

Black Mountain Festival - North Carolina

Kent State Folk Festival -Ohio

Winnipeg Folk Festival- Manitoba, Canada

Missouri River Bluegrass Festival-Cross Ranch, North Dakota

Cuyahoga Valley Festival - Akron, Ohio

Summer Lights Festival - Nashville, Tennessee

Regina Folk Festival - Saskatchewan, Canada

Recordings by The Cantrells may be ordered from Sombrero Records, PO Box 121561, Nashville TN 37212. CDs $16.00 Cassettes $11.00 (prices include shipping). They are also available from, and as downloads from iTunes and other music sites.


The Cantrells
PO Box 121561 Nashville Tennessee 37212
(615) 292-1954

Use the following address to reach the Cantrells via the internet by removing the spaces and replacing "at" and "dot" with the proper symbols:

thecantrells at yahoo dot com (a source for large, high resolution, printable photos and press material) (listen to samples) (listen to samples)