wears the trousers magazine


mindy smith: stupid love (2009)
August 19, 2009, 9:02 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,

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Mindy Smith
Stupid Love •••
Vanguard 

Long Island born, Nashville adopted singer-songwriter Mindy Smith’s third album Stupid Love scratches a pencil picture of a homespun, everyday world of broken hearts, hard drinking bachelorettes, and the joys and pains of an ordinary life keenly felt. To quote the great Donny and Marie Osmond, Ms Smith is a “little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll”, occupying that broad classification of US popular music that falls under the heading of Americana. There’s more than a smoky, spilt-bourbon whiff of Tom Petty and Emmylou Harris about her recorded person, which isn’t entirely unpleasant, while the knowledge that a few years ago she issued a cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ should give you an idea of her lineage. But forget the many country clichés, Smith’s mainstream pop sensibilities, alt-folk sympathies, understated emotive voice and sense of contemporary reality keep her blissfully free of that genre’s gaudy excesses.

The mid-paced AOR of opener ‘What Went Wrong’ is, unsurprisingly, a reflection on a love that went awry, and its mixture of straightforward attitude combined with emotional clarity is a mark of what’s to come. It’s no surprise to learn that Smith has lived a little; her mother dying of cancer when she was still in her teens is an event that continues to sear her work with an appreciation of the true depths of loss, of which relationship break-ups can only ever be a shadow. Word is, she surprised even herself with the cheerfulness of the single ‘Highs & Lows’, a zip up your boots and face the day come what may number with a killer singalong hook. But it’s not really characteristic, its commonality with the rest of the album being more about melancholy and an ear for a good chorus than one of attitude. A downbeat sadness pervades the album, even on the faster paced numbers, the emotional timbre of Smith’s voice sitting comfortably with what is a resolutely introspective collection. She feels things intently does Mindy. And when she does, she writes about it.

“I don’t want to feel this blue / I want to be over you,” she sings on ‘Love’s Lost’, a lament for an obsessive affection that painfully refuses to die that builds into a radio-friendly ballad with a chorus that cries out for lighters to be held aloft. There’s nothing too cynical about Smith’s stadium moments though, and on songs like the infectious ‘What Love Can Do’ her endearing passion allows the listener to forgive a few potential horrors. You know the choruses are coming, but their predictability is overridden by the depth of their honesty. ‘I’m Disappointed’ gasps and sighs with the struggle against bitterness of a cavernous love stripped bare by separation. At times it’s almost too painful to listen to, the haunting organ backdrop stark and hollow as the former home now robbed of any imprint of the singer is offered as a bricks and mortar testimony to what has gone before. Elsewhere, Daniel Tashian of The Silver Seas sensitively duets on the jazz-flavoured ‘True Love Of Mine’, with images of romantic walks in beautiful places and a touching faith in happy ever afters.

Which is the kind of whole point of Mindy Smith. She does believe in happy endings, and that’s why she is often disappointed. If the production, undertaken by Smith herself in conjunction with Nashville session players Ian Fitchuk and Justin Louks sometimes sounds formulaic, the strength of her songwriting and the quality of her voice still serve to redeem. Stupid Love is a double-edged title full of trust and self-reproach for a collection of accomplished songs that don’t waste time with ambiguity but go straight for the heart. It’s hard not to find someone as honest as Mindy Smith likeable. Even her record company boss describes her as “a fragile soul”. And it’s that very weakness which gives this album its strength.

Martyn Clayton
UK release date: 10/08/09; www.myspace.com/mindysmith

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