Friday, August 04, 2006

Mindy Smith -- Long Island Shores

I will confess that, as a general rule, I prefer men's voices to women's in the roots/folk/alt-country world. It's not a sexist thing (at least I hope not). It's just that there's a largely interchangeable passel of women making this music -- Kasey Chambers, Tift Merritt, Julie Miller, Kim Richey, Anne McCue, Dar Williams, Allison Moorer, Kathleen Edwards, etc. They're not bad, but they don't make me sit up and pay close attention, either. They're pleasant. And Lucinda Williams, Neko Case and Iris Dement stand out for me in this world for the precise reason that they are not pleasant; Lucinda because she is raw and gritty, and Neko and Iris because they have those knockout truckstop jukebox voices that can cut through a room full of rowdy bar patrons.

So I've been listening to Mindy Smith's new album Long Island Shores (due out October 11th), and it's a pleasant surprise -- pleasant because she has the kind of sweetly aching soprano that fits in well with the interchangeable sisters, and a surprise because she writes some really, really great songs. Mindy is a Paste Magazine favorite, so I tried to like One Moment More, her debut album from a couple years back, and which featured the semi-hit "Come to Jesus." That song received a lot of airplay on CMT and garnered her a couple CMA nominations. But it sounded like it belonged on a Twila Paris CCM album; it didn't do a thing for me. I think it's swell that Mindy loves Jesus. I just wish she had written a less lobotomized song about it.

So I wasn't fully prepared for Long Island Shores. Mindy still loves Jesus. That's good. But her new songs are full of tension and conflict. They sound a lot less like poster slogans and a lot more like a Christian wrestling with real, three-dimensional life. The musical accompaniment (acoustic guitar, pedal steel, dobro) is less polite and more raw. And Mindy still has a sweetly aching soprano that reminds me of Emmylou before she lost that vocal purity because of age and cigarettes.

It's a really fine album, and it's worth the wait.

9 comments:

John McCollum said...

Andy,

I look forward to hearing the album. I love Mindy's voice, but found her last album a little saccharine, even though she cussed a little.

The Guy You Thought Was Rude said...

I, too, tried to like Mindy's first record. It was lumped in with some of the other artists you mentioned. Sam Phillips has done a fantastic job in wrestling with her Christianity. Do you see any parallels in their work with Mindy's new record?

kate said...

This is good news! I came across Mindy about 5 years ago when my housemate's parents saw her at a coffeehouse in Nashville. They sent us her hand-Sharpied demo, and we played the bejeezus out of that thing. It was raw and she had a little bit of an early Patty Griffin scream going on when she got real mad and honky-tonk. So I was pretty disappointed by her first label release. I'm glad it sounds like she's going back to her roots, literally.

Andy Whitman said...

Hey, Kate!

Have you moved? Settled into Philly? I hope the transition is going well for you and your husband.

By the way, I'm trying to reach you. I tried sending mail to your calvin.edu account, but I was apparently too late. At any rate, when you get a chance, can you send a quick message to whitmana (at) hotmail (dot) com with your current email address? Thanks.

Andy Whitman said...

Hey Rude Guy,

Sure, there are a few parallels -- more thematically than musically. There's long been been an openness and honesty in Sam's musical wrestling with her faith. I hear similar dynamics in Mindy's new album. For the record, I think Sam is the better songwriter. But Mindy's music is more approachable, and she's the one who's morely likely to turn her dark night of the soul into a certified CMT hit.

Both are very good, but for different reasons.

Nate said...

The reason Paste loved the first album so much was because they received a lot of money in advertising to promote it. Ya gotta take that into consideration. Labels pay a lot of money to be included on those CDs they send out with the magazine, and Paste tends to provide a lot of support to the artists that appear on those CDs. The debut had a few bright spots, but overall it was quite dull and awkward. You're comments have piqued by interest in the new album, though.

Andy Whitman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andy Whitman said...

Er, sort of. I think it's more fair to say that Paste liked Mindy Smith's first album. Yes, labels pay to have their songs included on the Paste CD, but your statement implies that Paste has a veiled interest in making the CD look good.

Not so. Reviewers have complete freedom in reviewing albums, and there is absolutely no pressure to churn out a positive review just because a song from the album appears on the CD sampler. I know. I've written more than one two-star review of an album which is featured on the Paste sampler. In the case of Mindy Smith, I think it's more accurate to say that the reviewer liked the album, not that "Paste loved the first album so much was because they received a lot of money in advertising to promote it."

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, i'm surprised to hear you don't like "Come to Jesus", but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Here is another interesting blog about Mindy Smith
http://jviz.blogspot.com/2007/11/mindy-smith.html