The following is about first impressions, writing on the first listen. I'm very pleased in the opening to hear the sound of a pop music approach rather than the Americana vibe. I'm sure for myself that this is more where Mindy Smith belongs. Her melodies are too strong for that world, they get wasted. They're crossing her over here, no doubt.
Can Vanguard do that? Sure--if Blue Note did it, anybody can. Last I heard, Norah Jones' debut sold seventeen million copies worldwide, I'm sure it's closer to twenty by now.
Although I was a little too close to the guitar player's rig to get the right mix (so was Mindy, for that matter), the night-closing set I saw at the recent Americana Conference was impressive. It was a different approach than I'd seen with her show, the big band. The incredible Lex Price (now risen to the role of co-producer) was still an indelible presence on mandolin and sometimes guitar, especially on the duo numbers. But there was a loud, great rhythm section, James DiGirolamo on keys and accordion, and a great (loud) electric guitarist who was a big beautiful part of the new sound. The crossover sound.
Readers who caught our interview with Mindy around the time of her debut will know that our roots with her go back before she was discovered. So our fondest memories are, understandably, of hearing her around a campfire for the first time, amazed by her songs and her undeniable voice. I laughed out loud when she wasn't picked that year as one of the New Folk winners at the Kerrville Folk Festival, I thought it was a fitting testament to the ability of the judges involved.
Wow, Mindy can literally just reach out with her voice and grab a hold of you--it goes out there on the loneliest limb, and you follow before you know it. When her voice soars, it does so without getting too big or too thin and strident--it remains supple and elastic, it's perfect.
I'm not sure that this record has the incredible songs of the debut, but it's full of great songs, and it sounds way better, to me. See, the first album of a great artist has all the best songs of their life so far, the ones that got them a recording contract. The second has the songs they wrote the next year, frequently when they were on tour. This record has all the great songs it needs. As soon as I wrote that, "Out Of Control" hit the speakers and stopped me dead. There's the sound that caused me to fall in love with Mindy Smith's music. Maybe more than just her music.
I couldn't believe how thin Mindy was when I saw her play--Hollywood thin. The lady is definitely ready for her close-up. They're gonna make a rock star out of this fantastic singer songwriter. As far as I'm concerned, it couldn't happen to a more deserving artist. She's got it, all of it.