First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2009, Volume 16, #10
Written by John Metzger
Mon October 26, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
The enormous amount of attention and praise that was slathered on Mindy Smith after she recorded a cover of Dolly Partonís Jolene may have seemed like a blessing. Initially, the tune jump-started her career, but over time, it became a bit of a curse. Smith wasnít really ready for prime time: her lyrical conceptions were fairly routine, and her musical identity had not yet begun to assert itself. By the time that she issued her debut One Moment More, expectations were absurdly high. While the set certainly had its moments, such as the moving gospel-imbued call of Come to Jesus, it also sometimes slipped into lightweight mediocrity.
Smith has been fighting to redefine herself ever since. Because she was thrust into the limelight, Smithís struggle has played out publicly over the course of her last two endeavors: Long Island Shores and My Holiday. On the former set, she succeeded in broadening her appeal by following the natural path of her evolution. There wasnít anything on the outing that she hadnít attempted on One Moment More, but at least she consistently sounded authentic. With My Holiday, Smith appeared to turn a corner by providing a better backdrop for her growth. In hindsight, however, in couching the collection as a Yuletide offering, she also was able to mask her lingering deficiencies.
With each passing album, Smith has been pushing her music further and further away from its roots-oriented beginnings. This may be an attempt to put some distance between herself and her early work, or it simply might be a reflection of the artist she wants to become. With Stupid Love, Smith completely jettisons the notion that she is a country act. The pluck of a banjo might lurk in the background of several tracks, and the candlelight flicker of a pair of acoustic guitars might be used to frame her voice on Telescope. Stupid Love, however, is a tried-and-true pop album that is influenced more by Fleetwood Mac, Sheryl Crow, and Patty Griffin than it is by Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, or Emmylou Harris.
The problem, however, is that in forging her transition to a new style, Smith merely has swapped one set of generic arrangements for another. Throughout Stupid Love, she is aided by a handful of special guests ó Vince Gill, Leigh Nash, Amy Grant, Thad Cockrell, and Jeremy Lister make appearances on the collection. In truth, however, they add very little to the proceedings. After the breezy luminescence of What Went Wrong and the irresistible jauntiness of Highs and Lows, the songs on Stupid Love begin to drift past in a pleasantly easy-going fashion, and they never truly are given an opportunity to gain traction or resonance.
Even so, Stupid Love repeats the demonstration of maturity and grand ambitions that Smith brought to bear on My Holiday. Its 13 tracks form a cohesive meditation on relationships. Over the course of Stupid Love, Smith wrestles with her emotions as she attempts to accept her faltering love life for what it is. On the opening cut What Went Wrong, she searches for herself in the wake of an affair that has ended, while on Telescope, she mournfully tries to bridge the distance that separates her from her partner. In a sense, the outing traces the thoughts in her head as she slowly comes to realize that reconciliation will never come to pass.
Unfortunately, itís easy to see how Stupid Love will move from its beginning to its ending. Without any lyrical twists or surprise endings tucked inside the setís 13 tracks, Smithís emotional outpourings begin to sound rather redundant. Although the entirety of Stupid Love is considerably more consistent and durable than One Moment More, it still largely feels as if Smith has watered down her compositions so that they will appeal to the widest possible audience. One can only hope that once she mends her broken heart, sheíll rediscover herself in the process.
Of Further Interest...
Stupid Love is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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