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Album review: Sahara Smith's 'Myth of the Heart'

August 31, 2010 | 11:28 am

Sahara Smith-Myth of the Heart cover

Texas singer-songwriter Sahara Smith creates Cinemascope-like wide-screen portraits of romantic passion, loneliness and unrequited love in her richly impressive, intensely soulful debut album.

“Blue light breaking on the window glass and cool wind shaking in the long white grass, the ocean speaks the language of the dawn,” she sings in the achingly beautiful opening track, “Thousand Secrets,” which quickly places this 21-year-old in the Emmylou Harris-Alison Krauss camp of country-rock singers of exquisite tastefulness.

“Train Man” is a Chris Isaak spaghetti western-soaked adventure in the search for love on the wrong side of the tracks. In “Are You Lonely,” Smith preemptively tells a would-be lover, “It’s OK if you forget me in the morning/I’ll forget you too.” She’s throwing in the towel after fruitless attempts to find true love when she sings, “Why don’t we treat it like a real thing” in the deliciously eerie “The Real Thing.”

She’s got an eminently empathetic partner in producer Emile Kelman, who’s learned his lessons well studying under T Bone Burnett. Kelman gives her songs plenty of sonic air in which to breathe, supporting her deeply felt takes on matters of the heart with painterly applications of yearning guitar and marrow-deep bass and drums served up by Burnett stalwarts Marc Ribot, Dennis Crouch and Jay Bellerose, respectively.

If Smith and her team err occasionally on the side of self-restraint, it’s hard to argue in an age of pop music in which excess is the rule rather than the exception.   And as any good storyteller knows, myths are better whispered than shouted.

--Randy Lewis

Sahara Smith

“Myth of the Heart”

Playing in Traffic Records

Three and a half stars (out of four)