Mindy Smith's "Tin Can"
“Mindy Smith,” Mindy Smith (Giant Leap/TVX)
Many artists frontload their releases with the best songs at the beginning. A few finish strong, and many others have peaks and valleys throughout their releases.
Yet singer-songwriter Mindy Smith has a distinct summit in the middle of her new “Mindy Smith,” with three tracks stringing together for a remarkable stretch. And for an artist who has been kicking around for a decade on the verge of a significant breakout, this might be her moment.
It’s not like the Nashville-based New York native (and former Knoxvillian) struggles mightily on the rest of her self-titled project; her songs and her execution are solid enough, if sometimes a bit generic.
Smith enchants early on with wistful longing and great melody as she makes a call to go “stepping out” on the track “Pretending the Stars.” And late on “Mindy Smith,” she effectively channels a lounge singer on “Cure for Love” and lands a solid punch in the swagger of “When You’re Walking on My Grave,” singing, “Stone cold, you left me for dead.”
However, Smith — whose country-rock stylings and youthful soprano put her somewhere between Shawn Colvin and Sheryl Crow — achieves a clear yet diverse voice on the fourth, fifth and sixth tracks.
Her sometimes-too-fragile vocal might get lost elsewhere on “Mindy Smith,” but on the drinking-woman’s pity party “Don’t Mind Me,” she’s the little damaged soul stealing thunder from the firestorm of bluesy electricity: “My hell’s breaking loose, and I don’t know what to do/So don’t you come for me.” On the subsequent romper-stomper “Tin Can,” she routinely flips her voice like a fluffy aural pancake in a downhome kitchen. Then Smith devastates with the waltzing, pedal-steel-flavored “Everything Here Will Be Fine,” a tender and heartwrenching farewell to a dying mother. (Smith’s mother passed away in 1991.)
If that track doesn’t put a lump in your throat, nothing will.
Rating (five possible): 3-1/2