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Mindy Smith

MY HOLIDAY • Mindy Smith

If you're looking for a Christmas record full of jolly ol' St. Nick, dancing snowmen, bells ringing and kids singing, this isn't it. On the other hand, if you'd like one that quietly addresses the undercurrents of longing and melancholy along with the good cheer of the holiday, Mindy Smith has your number.

Eleven numbers to be exact, half of them originals. "My Holiday" and "Follow The Shepherd Home" marry acoustic melodies to winsome Currier & Ives charm, while the lump-in-the-throat "Santa Will Find You," co-written with Chely Wright, explores the spirit of the man in red without resorting to the usual clichés. The standout of the new offerings is "I Know The Reason," a co-write and duet with Nashville's best-kept secret, Thad Cockrell. A clear-eyed love song, it renders an ordinary couplet "It's always Christmas time / Knowing that you're mine" into something extraordinarily moving.

Smith then brings her own unaffected take to a handful of seasonal standards, handling "Silver Bells," "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" and "The Christmas Song" with an ease and style that makes them glisten anew. Also in the mix is the traditional "Away In A Manger," in which she harmonizes with her long-lost soul sister Alison Krauss. A purer sound was never heard.

Recorded in Nashville and co-produced by Smith with Steve Buckingham, My Holiday features the cream of the A-Team session cats, including drummer Eddie Bayers, bassist Michael Rhodes, and guitarist Kenny Vaughan, as well as Smith's longtime musical foil, Lex Price, on mandola. The simple, elegant arrangements add to the timeless sound of the whole affair.

There are two kinds of Christmas records. The kind that sound like they were made by an artist who's either fulfilling a contractual obligation or milking a fanbase. And then the kind that sound like the artist is trying to express something about the complicated feelings of Christmas. As the title of this album suggests--My Holiday--Mindy Smith has made the second kind.  • Bill DeMain

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