Cindy Kalmenson,
Let Me Out Here
(Big Gack, 1997)

The minute I put this CD in, I immediately thought of Samantha Mathis's character in the movie The Thing Called Love. Mathis plays a young girl -- equal parts street-smart tough girl and vulnerable romantic -- who travels to Nashville to make it as a singer-songwriter. That character could be Cindy Kalmenson, who ended a teaching career to travel to Nashville and produce her first CD, Let Me Out Here.

From the start, I was hooked by Kalmenson's sweet voice; she moves easily from tender love songs to tongue-in-cheek country musings without sacrificing clarity or strength. The title track, "Could Have Been You," showcases the former. Again, the comparison to Samantha Mathis comes to mind; the rhythm and melody of this song are highly reminiscient of Mathis's song "Big Dream." The title track, about a relationship going nowhere, follows in the same vein and contains a solid rhythm and catchy lyrics: "I may never hold a candle to your rising sun / But I won't be a dreamer riding shotgun / Don't want to lose you we've come this far / But I can't plant a garden in the back of this car."

Kalmenson slips into a playful mood with "The Damage Was Done," proving she can hold her own with catchy hooks that would do any country songwriter proud. "Alabama Bliss" starts off slow and sweet but builds in intensity with a rocking guitar solo before slipping back into meditative peace. "Tears From My Face" reminds me of an Eagles tune, harking back to Kalmenson's California life.

"The Colors Underground" is a beautiful tune about learning from experiences; Darrel Scott provides accompaniment on mandolin, which stands out as the focal point of this song. Without losing the contemplative feel, Kalmenson then segues into the rockin' "Fairy Tale Blues," a warning about kissing frogs. From there she moves to "Oh Espana," a lyrical tribute to Spain; Kalmenson spent eight years teaching Spanish in California. "Bachata Rosa," the final song on the CD, gives the listener another taste of Kalmenson's previous job; it's written in Spanish (unfortunately, there's no translation in the liner notes).

Kalmenson keeps the good stuff coming; the final songs on the CD are just as good as the ones at the beginning. "Break the Shell" has reggae-influenced rhythms captured on mandolin, while "Was It Just the Wine" presents another chance to become better acquainted with Kalmenson's clear deliveries and solid arrangements. Kalmenson doesn't pass up another opportunity to inject a little humor into her music with "Rock and Roll Hero"; she reveals her daring exploits to get close to her own personal rock-and-roll hero, Neil Young. Kalmenson's delivery contains just the right combination of self-mockery and wide-eyed adoration to make this song one of my favorites.

Based on this CD, Cindy Kalmenson has a promising career in music. I'm looking forward to hearing more from her; she deserves all the radio airplay she can get.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]