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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Local Sounds: Mindy Smith

    It’s a bit jarring to be driving along to the Smith Haven Mall and hearing a sweetly Nashville-inflected voice singing of her father preaching a sermon ‘at the church on the corner of old Nicholls Road.’ Say what?

    But that’s a line from the title track of Mindy Smith’s second album, Long Island Shores (Vanguard Records). The second release from this Smithtown-raised singer-songwriter, now transplanted to Nashville, is as calming as that one line might be unsettling for a local listener.

    Not that being raised in Smithtown was all that pleasant. Smith remembers being picked on and teased in school, and wandering through the local mall (uh, guess which one?), singing to herself. Guarded, shy and a loner, she was primed for the meditative interior monologues that often produce great songs.

    Smith is a compelling songwriter – her songs sparkle with interesting melodies, shifting styles, and spare but effective backup instrumentals. And she’s a superb singer as well – her voice almost whispers in higher ranges, sweet and light without ever bordering on sappy or syrupy.

    Favorite tracks include ‘Out Loud’ which leads off the album with a strong assertion of personal values; ‘Please Stay’ a sad love song to her pet dog (seriously!), and ‘Little Devil,’ where Smith confronts her own demons. ‘I believe the devil isn’t in a red suit with a pitchfork and tail,’ she says. ‘In fact, he can be whatever demon you’re fighting at the time – and he’s the most beautiful creature God ever made.’

    ‘Tennessee’ is her homage to her adopted state, which is forgivable by this Yankee because of the poignancy of the title track, written on her way to a family reunion. ‘The minute I got off the plane at Macarthur Airport I could smell the salt water in the air; it made me feel like ‘Wow, I want a bagel!’ she says with a laugh.

    How can you resist?

    Speaking of resisting, how can you resist the idea of putting together two of life’s greatest pleasures: music and food? That’s what New York stalwart folkie Christine Lavin has done in One Meat Ball (Appleseed Records). Lavin’s been a mainstay in the local folkie circuit for a couple of decades, a premature Bridget Jones, trying to decipher the mysteries of modern life and love. And now she seems to be saying, at least you should eat well!

    So she’s collected some terrific recordings about food and paired them with the performer’s personal favorite recipes. What’s amazing is that no one ever thought of this before!

    Lavin looks at the world askew, clever, and sardonic but with an optimist’s continual capacity to be outraged or hurt – the source of her humor. And so it’s predictable that some of the best tracks on this album are funny and poingnant – like Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich’s ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ (with a recipe for crescent cookies that I actually tried and liked!) Or Lou and Peter Berryman’s send up of balancing friends and work and family (performed by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer). And Mary Liz McNamara’s hilarious ‘Bacon,’ which is the first song that exposes the costs of vegetarianism. (Full disclosure: I haven’t eaten red meat for 25 years and I still swoon at the smell of bacon.)

    There are a few little surprises here – like actor Jeff Daniels’s song and his mother’s recipe for Tomato Pudding (who knew he could sing?) And veterans like Dave van Ronk’s classic ‘One Meat Ball,’ Pete Seeger’s ‘Maple Syrup Time’ and Tom paxton’s ‘Bottle of Wine.’

    The only real problem is where to put the CD. In the kitchen cupboard with the recipe books? In the CD cabinet? Maybe I’d better buy two of ’em.

    ‘Don’t bother with the local girls,’ Graham Parker once so famously sang. He has no idea how wrong he was.

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