Mindy Smith | Vanguard | Released: 2007
Mindy Smith's first Christmas album is quite the seductive affair. Her feathery, coquettish voice is imbued with a smoky sensuality that lends a lusty edge even to spiritually oriented originals such as the languid "Follow the Shepherd Home," a co-write with Chely Wright (one of two co-writes with Wright, who also penned the cozy, swinging, wintry love song, "It Really Is a Wonderful Life," a woozy, upbeat number rendered with cocktail lounge languor by a small combo of brush drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars). Co-produced by Smith, My Holiday takes an intimate, fireside approach to Yuletide balladry, as the artist surrounds herself with a tight, basic band lineup of no small repute—the foundation is Eddie Bayers on drums, Michael Rhodes on bass, Bryan Sutton on acoustic guitar, Kenny Vaughn on electric guitar, Lex Price on mandola, and Steve Cox on piano, supplemented at times by other Nashville studio stalwarts—and keeps the emotions tantalizingly reigned in, the better to achieve an atmosphere at once sultry and saintly.
It's a terrific balancing act, and Smith never wavers on the highwire. She infuses a dreamy, saloon-style take on "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" with an attitude somewhere between melancholy and doe-eyed optimism. And while you're still musing over her uncertain year-end fate, she offers a plaintive, rustic treatment of "Away In a Manger," with Alison Krauss adding a crystalline harmony vocal to a moment of pristine beauty. At the end of the album she cuts loose, unambiguously, on her original tune "Come Around." A forthright appeal to children, fathers and mothers to "put all your faith in the Father," it features Will Kimbrough on guitar fashioning the finest Roger McGuinn lines this side of, well, Roger McGuinn, in a driving, swirling, decidedly Byrds-ish arrangement. May we all have such holidays as this. —David McGee