December 20, 2007

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Mindy Smith, My Holiday
Vanguard Records, Oct. 9
We last left skinny adult-alternate-charter Smith getting all born-again on us with her 2006 full-length Long Island Shores, capitalizing on the modicum of fame she won singing “Jolene” on the Dolly Parton tribute record Just Because I’m a Woman. Like the other embarrassed-looking reindeer-sweater-clad stars featured in this space today, Smith would love her some royalties earned by writing a holiday novelty item, hence the kickoff song/title track, a wispy, waifish, mildly depressing original sung in a state of Shawn Colvin fragility to the accompaniment of Bryan Sutton’s acoustic guitar. That one’s sort of country, not very catchy unless you give it a few listens, and definitely a downer; Smith’s had a very hard life (her adoptive mom got the cancer and died too early) and wouldn’t be one’s ideal candidate for bringing Scrooge to his senses, just the facts, ma’am. Nevertheless, the featherweight jazz of “The Christmas Song” isn’t without merit, and she does a pretty cool Beatles-rockout-coda thing in “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Weight is added to the bluegrass section of her resume through an “Away in a Manger” duet with Alison Krauss. B — E. W. S.