Paige Aufhammer Label: LMC/Highwire
It’s so easy to get lost among all the new releases out there today, and it’s especially easy to get lost among all of the guys and gals with guitars that traverse the country in Toyotas playing coffee shops. But every once in a while, someone makes an impact in some little way – usually by being so compelling you just can’t ignore them. That’s the case with Southern California’s Paige Aufhammer, whose debut album is introspective, melodic, inviting, warm, and maybe just a step or two below stunning.
Aufhammer most closely resembles Mindy Smith, maybe even to a fault. But really, is there anything wrong with that? You can try to be like Mindy, but few pull it off like Paige, and let’s face it – she still has to write the songs.
Most of this album has an acoustic bent, but right out of the gate Aufhammer strums with jangly conviction on the instantly catchy “Falling Back in Love,” then sings achingly yet sweetly on “Oh Love.” Smith fans will revel in both “Wandering” and “Coffee,” two of the best tracks on a really consistent collection -- the latter has some sparse but really pretty and effective piano riffs. “Out of Time” has a throwback, almost jazzy feel, maybe like a young Joni Mitchell. Some of the ballads tend to run into each other, but you won’t care when Aufhammer sings to you in a velvety smooth lullaby-ish tone, as she does on “New England.”
There may be fewer outlets for artists like Aufhammer post-Lilith Fair, but the likes of Smith and Patty Griffin have enjoyed successful if slightly under-the-radar careers so far. Paige is likely to follow, because not only does she have a golden voice, but she’s got the songs to back it up. Whatever “big things” are out there for artists like this, Aufhammer should be a lock to achieve them.