"You'll never take my will to fight/ cause I was born at the bottom of this mountain I am scaling/ and I'll probably climb it until the day I die." - Fighting For It All - Mindy Smith.

When New Yorker Mindy Smith moved to Knoxville with her adoptive minister dad after her mum died of cancer in 1994 she soaked up the spirituality of the south.

But after finishing college and heading west to Nashville she resisted the wishes of her Christian publisher Word Music and followed her gut instinct.
Word advised Smith, now 32, to soften her lyrics and dump darker aspects of melodies and arrangements.

She was told her searing songs were too gut wrenching and personal.

"I got dropped, and it was the best thing that could ever happened to me," Smith revealed as she promoted debut disc One Moment More on another label (Vanguard-Shock.)

The disc, which she co-produced with Steve Buckingham and dedicated to her mum, had a head start when preceded by the hidden track Jolene (the only cover).

It was chosen as a single and video clip on Dolly Parton tribute disc Just Because I'm A Woman.

The video won a huge reaction on Nu Country TV with the singer's character finding her man cheating on her.

Smith stands in the road, holding her lantern and staring down the guilty couple. And then nothing!

"Well, wait until you see 'Jolene: Part II,'" she joked recently.

It's no surprise the soulful soprano's originals impacted akin to mentor Lee Ann Womack after working live with fellow writer Jason White who wrote evocative abortion song Red Ragtop for Tim McGraw.


Highlights include Raggedy Ann - portrait of a poverty primed unhappy childhood, and the title track - an exploration of life and loss.

"It's about my mum Sharon who passed away from breast cancer," says Smith, who left her native Long Island, New York, after her mother's death.

"It's been a great healing song. A lot of people have thanked me for writing it, because they didn't know how to communicate how they felt. The record is dedicated to her. She was also a musician and a fabulous singer."

Smith, raised by her adoptive parents, has no qualms about exorcising grief in songs.

Mindy Smith>

"My way of dealing with my problems is writing songs or just staying home and not doing anything," she says, "my mother was a vocalist and she made a lot of sacrifices, but she loved her life and she loved her family. She was just a special, special person."


Smith rejected the soppy pap of Christian music and delivers Come To Jesus as a gospel grunge song of sorts as her entrée.

The Train Song explores the angst and pain of a woman awaiting the return of her lover - she could be a spurned spouse or grieving good old girl.

"I've been crying, trying to make sense of all this shit he left me to tend/and I'm just wondering, I'll ask again, is my sweet man on that train?"

Angel Doves is equally evocative and vitriolic but a leap of faith delivered more in the style of Iris De Ment than her mentor.

"When you're blindsided and deceived and chained to the floor/ when it's difficult to see the writing on the wall/ keep on believing God is soaring above a world that's running out of love."

Sure, there's an inherent sadness in Smith's music here but she has soulful credibility that Laura Cantrell and Kathleen Edwards would kill for.

Melodically and vocally Hard To Know breaks the mould with its dynamic delivery.

"Well, you should have heard the way I've been talking to myself/ treating her like common trash on the side of the road."

Don't dismiss the dynamic diva for vocal fragility on first listen.

This was cut in two weeks with Bryan Sutton on acoustic with Billy Joe Shaver guitarist Will Kimbrough and Kenny Vaughan, bassist Glenn Worf, Dan Dugmore on steel, a pair of drummers and Matt Rollings and Steve Conn on keyboards.

And the title track was featured in the season finale of the Warner Brothers TV series Smallville.

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