Mindy Smith: One Moment More
Genre: Skillfully written pop, heavily influenced by alternative country and folk
Label: Vanguard Records
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- Smith is a primarily self-taught musician but holds a master’s degree from the College of Hard Knocks. Her double major in music and misery groomed her nicely for her vocation as a singer and songwriter, and it makes her recent success story all the more poignant. After she was tagged to sing on a Dolly Parton tribute CD, Parton herself began to champion the then-barely-known performer, resulting in a wave of media exposure. In one sense, it’s not entirely fair to aim so much scrutiny at a young artist’s debut album. All the same, Smith’s autobiographical and emotionally dense One Moment More holds up remarkably well under the harsh limelight of "next big thing" status. While much has been made of her difficult childhood and adolescence, a troubled life doesn’t make anyone a great writer. It’s what a writer does with that life experience that turns her into an artist. Smith, who admittedly uses her music as therapy, has processed her losses and traumas and turned them into jewels that neither exploit her wounds nor dwell on them in morose, self-pitying fashion. The emotion she invests in her work is palpable, but it is far more cathartic than it is unsettling. The record is dedicated to Smith’s adoptive mother, who died of cancer when she was 19, and the influence can be felt on several cuts. The title track is a heart-wrenching plea for just one more embrace from a loved one whose presence was a lifeline. "It’s Amazing," which features a breezy pop/rock rhythm and vibrant, inventively layered harmonies redolent of mid-‘70s Fleetwood Mac, offers echoes of soothing maternal encouragement that help us understand the significance of Smith’s loss: "they don’t love you ‘cause they don’t know you like I do/ what’s the trouble - you’re just a growing beautiful someone."
Smith’s mother, who adopted her at birth, was a church music director, and her father was a pastor. The spiritual influence of the singer’s parents figures prominently on the disc, though Smith says she’s a "sometimes self-destructive" type whose faith is admittedly tentative. Her shaky stance, however, does nothing to lessen the impact of the CD’s most notably Christian-themed pieces. The disc’s standout cut, "Come To Jesus," digs deep into the Appalachian Mountains for its hair-raising chorus, and it collides head-on with raw-boned rock guitar that stirs up a stunning sonic dust storm. Again, a mother’s comforting voice is heard from beyond this mortal realm, assuring her children that "here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival, here in Heaven you will finally understand." Much of the power in Smith’s faith-informed lyrics comes from their juxtaposition with those depicting authentic struggles, as in the soul-stilling "Angel Doves." She heartens the "blindsided and deceived" by exhorting them - as well as herself - to "keep on believing God is soaring above a world that’s running out of love/ pouring hope out over us - His angel doves." A manifesto of sorts emerges in the half-psychodrama/half-testimony of "Hard To Know," which employs tremolo guitar borrowed from a horror show soundtrack and erupts into a stomping, two-step-styled chorus that insightfully announces, "sometimes it’s hard to know that you need to be saved/ ‘til you hit the bottom and rattle that cage."
The songs on One Moment More alternately throttle and caress, held in the very capable hands of an artist who fearlessly explores her full range of emotions, challenging the listener to take the bumpy but ultimately cleansing ride along with her.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This article was developed by UMC.org, a ministry of United Methodist Communications