Twin-Cities-based globetrotter Courtney Yasmineh plays practically all over the placce, so when she returns home, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity to catch up with her. Otherwise, highly recommended is her catalog: to date, Early Years, Sufi Line, and Beautiful Lonely.
Early Days (2004) is a strong half-dozen songs showcasing Yasmineh as a throaty troubador. The feel harks to the days of path makers like Tom Rush, Ellen McIlwaine, and such, stacking up well in its orginality. “Friends and Lovers” and “Married To Bob” have a stark, raw quality to them that comes right out and catches the ear. “Brother B” takes that quality and enhances the mood with haunting grace as her backup band tastefully weighs in, highlighting exquisitely mournful fiddle-playing in accompaniment to her poignant vocal. “Greatest Evil” is a lot of fun, perfectly suited for saloon-crawling with its barrelhouse piano and Yasmineh’s devil-may-care crooning.
Sufi Line (2005) takes a step forward, finding Yasmineh less the adept, acoustic-strumming balladeer, more the gifted, impassioned vocal stylist. Folk roots intact, Yasmineh stands on distinctly inventive footing. “Soda Pop Girl” brandishes a spirited hand, starting off an album that sustains engaging, imaginatively varied fare. “Nehemiah” offers a taste of country-gospel. “Perfidious” is sweetly laid-back with a rock-fueled edge. Yasmineh switches textures in sure command and consistently provides wizened, reflective lyrics. An example from “Soda Pop Girl” goes, “Black cherry soda in a parking lot/ Your hand sliding up my skirt/ You were always such a flirt/ And I wanted to be your all-or-nothing girl/ But the truth ran out/ You knew what my dreams were all about.” The somber “Live My In The Light Now” bitterly brings it right down in front, the words of a woman done trying to please everyone else—from mother to lover—hellbent, finally, on putting number one first. Sufi Line‘s a solid collection of admirable performances.
Beautiful Lonely (2009) is her newest, which, as of this writing, she’s running around the UK busily promoting. As Sufi Line evolved past the basics of Early Days, Beautiful Lonely loses an appreciable amount of folk flavor, veering into rock and, at times, pop. In the process, Yasmineh’s songwriting takes on a stronger trademark, a personal signature. “Part I Like,” accorded due airplay, stands a fine chance of catapulting this artist to prominence. It’s a pleasantly infectious, easy going, radio-friendly cut, the kind you find yourself idly humming and nodding along to in the middle of the day, out of nowhere. And when you get to chance to put it on the box again, your spirits lift right away. On top of which, she’s singing here about pure, free-wheeling, dig-me-on-my-own-terms abandon. “How about it if I love you from over here/ You love me from over there/ Don’t tell me don’t tell me we have to share/ Everything ’cause everything is so hard/ And I’ll admit that I’m a little too scarred/ I just want the part I like/ I just want the part I like.” Yasmineh gets downright dark with, for instance, the eerie dirge “Stones” and the flat-out, Fleetwood-Mac-ish rocker “Hurt a Girl.” The album clearly demonstrates that, creatively, Yasmineh is by no means running out of gas.
The Courtney Yasmineh catalog has a great deal going for it—and the way she’s continually improving, there’s no telling where her sound will grow next, except that it’s likely to be pretty damned good.