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Mindy Smith is trying to break into one hell of a hard industry: country-folk crossover. She has the song writing chops and balls bigger than any hat act out there. She is not afraid to take on difficult or unpopular subjects, as evidenced by the original spiritual that opens the disc. "Come to Jesus" is not your typical contemporary Christian song a la Michael W. Smith. It is dangerous and menacing, performed in a minor key with a muddy lap steel guitar. Smith juxtaposes the serious emotional vortex set up by this challenging music against the following words:
Oh my baby, when you’re cryin’ Never hide your face from me I have conquered Hell and driven out the demons I have come with the light to set you free...
"Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord" indeed.
That said, the disc is worth its price for this cut alone. The mood does not get this dark again until cut ten, "Hard to Know," where the tremolo on the electric guitar summons the polar opposite of "Come to Jesus." The protagonist of "Hard to Know" is determined to do everything herself, knowing that she cannot:
Sometimes it’s hard to know That you need to be saved ‘Til you hit bottom And rattle that cage Sometimes you just gotta keep Digging away Until you breakthrough To the light of day.
The remainder of the disc is made up of finely crafted and well-produced songs—harder than Shawn Colvin and Allison Krauss and lighter (and more serious) than Shania Twain and Faith Hill. Ms. Smith’s voice is pure alto, even in timbre and certain in intonation. Her subject matter is not the silly drivel of the popular artist; it deals with struggle, anxiety, and apocalyptic renewal, as expressed in the ballad "Hurricane":
I need a hurricane to ravage through this place I think it’s the only way To salvage any sense I have left To move on.
Mindy Smith deserves to be heard, and heard loudly.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...