Album review: "Myth of the Heart"
"I feel a little haunted/maybe you're the reason," sings Sahara Smith. You think? The 22-year-old, Texas-bred singer-songwriter keeps desire flickering throughout her debut album, "Myth of the Heart," occasionally evoking soulfully restless shades of Chris Isaak and Emmylou Harris.
Anyone predisposed to Smith's confessional sound - a gentle, yearning soprano set against an atmospheric backdrop of shimmering guitars and creeping tempos - will find much to enjoy here. Smith may be young, but many of her songs are well crafted enough to pass for something composed by one of her renowned influences. Prime examples: "Train Song," a torchy western intrigue ("He keeps the candlelight and leaves me here to memorize the dark"), and "Mermaid," a sepia-tinted narrative about longing and loss ("There's a carousel in Pittsburgh/at least there was before the war/I saw a picture in a postcard/dated 1934").
Although dramatic mood shifts are lacking, Smith has carved out an intimate niche for herself, with the subtle support of a top-notch lineup that features guitarists Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz. The album, entirely devoted to original songs, was produced by Emile Kelman and "overseen" by T-Bone Burnett. But every now and then Smith sounds as if she's serenely taking a dive, falling under a dream-conjuring spell.
- Mike Joyce, Jan. 2011