Jessica Mitchell Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON, June 20

Jessica Mitchell Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON, June 20
Photo: Stephen McGill
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"I'm an emotional person," Mitchell announced before launching into another one of the mid-tempo country songs populating her set. "Can you tell from my songs?" It was a curious contrast: a young woman who seemed, between tunes anyway, to be full of piss and vinegar, sass and sparkle, but whose performance was largely stuck in a holding pattern. Lost love, sad nights alone, heartaches and red wine — these aren't exactly foreign subjects for a country singer, but one had the impression that they might be somewhat foreign to this particular singer. This was a training wheels show for an emerging performer, right down to the odd way she kept talking about her father (who was sitting beside me, camcorder in hand) and other family and friends in the audience (while not paying much attention to the dozens of others who'd come to hear).

The good stuff is all there, and there are all kinds of reasons to believe that Mitchell will be able to develop her considerable promise into something more compelling and assured. Her band is tight and well suited to her style — you'd love to hear what could happen if they had some more diverse material to hack around. But, above all, the band is defined by Mitchell's aching voice. Honeyed, but with a touch of sand, it's a terrific country instrument.