The first time I heard Mindy Smith was back in 2004. I was going through a phase where I was listening to a lot of Bluegrass, Folk and Alternative Country... not the hit Country, mind you... but the style of Americana that was on the fringe of (old) Country, yet distant enough to be fresh sounding. The reason for my fascination with that music at that time was because I had just taken up guitar... something that, as a (then) 36 year old man, I had regretted not doing years earlier... especially because I, earlier in life, had a 60's era Gibson acoustic guitar at my disposal... something I would love to have now, if not for the fact that it belonged to my father.
My first exposure to the music of Mindy Smith was by way of a wonderful program on the cable Country Music video channel, GAC. GAC, in my eyes, was the poor man's CMT, but, because they had the program "On the Edge of Country", they were, in my eyes, so much better. "On the Edge of Country" was a 60 minute music video program that delved into Alternative Country, Bluegrass, Americana... artists like Patty Griffin, Nickel Creek, Johnny Cash, etc. I loved the program for the artists I knew, but loved it even more for the music that I was discovering.
The first song I heard from Mindy Smith was taken from a tribute album called, "Just Because I'm a Woman", one that celebrated the music of Dolly Parton. I, myself, have never been a huge Dolly fan, but concede that she was an amazing songwriter, for the genre of music that she performed. Mindy's contribution was a bittersweet cover of the song, "Jolene". The song was full of wanting... longing for that man just out of reach. Since that time, I have heard many covers of Jolene... including the original... and none of them have touched me like Mindy's version did.
The next song I found was the opening song of her debut album, "ONE MOMENT MORE", called "Come to Jesus". It was a song of faith and... if I can be so coy...devotion. It was a song of hope.
I immediately felt the need to see if Mindy had any music, and was happy to discover that she had a debut album out on Vanguard Records, a label that I trusted very much. Before I was able to hunt down a copy of the album, I had even been exposed to a third track from the album... the titular piece. The song, "One Moment More", was one of the saddest, most beautiful songs that I had...and have...ever heard. The first time I really paid attention to the lyrics of the song (keeping in mind I focus more on the music), I was struck by the sense of pain that the writer was experiencing. I remember thinking to myself, 'if this song is based on actual experiences, this girl has been devastatingly hurt by a man.' Wow... was I ever wrong. Mindy sings: "Give me just one part of you to cling to... and keep me wherever you are. It's just enough to steal my heart and run and fade out with the falling sun...oh, please don't go...let me have you just one moment more... oh, all I need, all I want is just one moment more." The poignancy of this song is such that each and every one of us KNOW, if even to a lesser extent, exactly how Mindy feels. Whether it be from the loss of a loved one... or the dissolution of a relationship...especially for those left on the hurting end.
The song was written (by Mindy) as a love song for her mother...the woman that had taken her into her home as an infant and raised her as her own. What made the song so heartbreaking was the fact that her mom passed away from the treacherous effects of cancer, when Mindy was only 19 years old. In the song, Mindy sings sadly...ever so longingly.. to be able to see her mother...if for only one moment more.
The album, itself, is full of similar strains... songs of sadness, love and longing. The emotions found therein are rampant in the music, which is often sparse and always sentimental. The track, "Hurricane", is one that will always be very important to me. It is a song about despair, of being at the end of one's rope. The lyric,"I need a hurricane to empty out this place... it seems it's the only way to salvage any sense of what I have left to move on", struck me, in particular, because of how my personal life felt to me at that time. Although my life wasn't on a last thread, I felt that I did, in fact, need a hurricane to "ravage through this place", to help me start over... to be able to move on. My personal hurricane came in 2010 and I can now look back and be ever thankful for the chance to start over... to see what beautiful life can come out of death... if even only the symbolic death of a part of one's life.
Another devastatingly sad song on this album is a track called, "Down In Flames". In it, Mindy once again sings of loss... of hurting...and, most of all, longing. In one part of the song, Mindy says, "And I would tell I was happy, if I wasn't so damned sad...", when the listener immediately hears the most lonely, solitary strike of a piano key that I have ever heard. It is symbolic in so many ways, and a prime example of how this album is also one of the most meticulously produced albums I have ever heard. It is a classic example of how less can sometimes be more. It has the perfect amount of melancholy blended with the sorrow, yet a beauty that shines through, leaving the listener with hope.
We can thank both Steve Buckingham and Mindy, herself, for such an exquisite listening experience. Mostly.
There is one track on the album that, at this point, I don't even remember. For my listening experience (on iPod) I have deleted the song and don't even know if I have the particular track in my library. It almost felt to me like a bastard step-child both musically and stylistically. It didn't fit into my listening experience. It may be a beautiful and inspiring song for some... just not for me. Do I care? No. I have created one of the most beautiful listening experiences (in one sitting) with the remaining tracks. This album is one of those that is as close to perfection as you will find... at least in that particular genre of music.
Well... with some slight variation of the track list, anyhow.
To sum it up, I find that, with this album, I often venture into a very contemplative frame of mind... one that allows me to dwell on life... on death... on relationships... on happiness... and even sadness. I find myself thinking about what I've been blessed with... who I have been blessed to share my life with...and how the many ups and downs that each and every one of us face are for our own good. Without the sadness, we wouldn't know the happiness that life has to offer. While life isn't always easy... and often hurts like hell... it is comforting to know that there is music out there that helps to ease the pain that we can sometimes feel. That said... I'm happy as a clam... and sometimes this music is just perfect for a cloudy day.
I want to conclude this post by sharing a video of Mindy performing the title track at the Grand Ole Opry... a performance that is so tender... so heartfelt... that it will probably bring tears to your eyes. It did to mine.