The Songs of Zion
This is what I’m going to call a new segment of my blog. I really enjoy following the trends in LDS music, and I’d love to share that with you. As I get new CD’s, I’ll review them and then if you get them, you can tell me if I’m full of it!
“Change” by Stephanie Smith
Produced by Jonathan Shults and Stephanie Smith
Even though Stephanie and I are not what you’d call “old friends”, we’ve known each other a few years. I think we first met on the LDSmusicians.com yahoogroup. Anyway, I’m always excited to get a chance to see her play live. In fact, I even had the chance to promote one of her concerts. I remember once about a year ago, one snowy winter night, that another friend of mine and I went to American Fork, UT to hear her play in a small bookstore on a sort of “double bill” with Greg Simpson (another one of my favorites), and Shane Jackman. At the time, she was working on a second CD, and she brought with her some of the scratch mixes that she and Jonathan had recently finished.
I was just blown away by them. The two tunes she played were energetic and edgier than her first CD, and I was way excited.
So, then, a few weeks ago, she sent me a copy of the final release of the CD to review here in Mo’ Boy! I was pretty stoked to crack it open and hear the tunes. And I’m not disappointed at all.
“Change” is kind of an appropriate title for her album, as she’s been going through a lot of it since the last CD. This one is edgier than the last, which was good, but I felt a little held-back. Now, don’t for a minute think that “edgier” means “hard rock”. That’s not her style. It’s an “alt/pop-post-lillith-fair-singer-songwriter” kinda groove. With intelligent lyrics. And cool surprises for chord changes. And heart. Don’t tell anyone, but a couple of times I teared up listening to this. Ok, I’m old and sentimental…
The lyrics overall deal with a positive outlook on life, but not rose-colored at all. This is a work that acknowledges trials and difficulties, but takes the high road. One of the best of that sort is “Let Me Know”. It’s about God leading you to the promised land only to find that it’s barren. Then you plant the seeds He gives you and it blossoms. God may lead us there, but he doesn’t expect us to rest when we get there. It made me think of the wagon trains heading west to finally arrive in the dusty valley by a dead and salty lake.
She did a cover of her own song, too, in “Better Off Alone”. Originally on her first CD, the newer version is bigger and with more intensity. It’s one of my favorites of hers live, and it was cool to hear it again, new on this CD.
“Sidewalk Pictures” is about the fragility of art. And yet, somehow, we keep on doing it. This one has some really cool chord changes in it. Very fresh things you don’t expect.
There were a couple of tunes that I didn’t get, like “Save Your Own”. That one made me wish I knew the story behind the song. I might have understood it if I had. Still, melody and the tune carried me through. “All I Find” was another one”.
She just recently got married (one of the changes I was referring to), and that threads through several of her songs. I like hearing love songs that are very clearly about being married. Most love songs are so vague they can be about any kind of love. But committed and documented love is somehow different than “living together” love, or even “just dating” love. And it’s nice to hear that reflected in song. And even though she’s only been married, what, a couple of years, and I’ve been married over 15, these songs still spoke to me, as well. The best of these is “Anywhere”.
Go to her website for song samples and gigs. If you live in the Utah County area, she gigs a LOT, and travels some, too.