My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Connie Smith – ‘Long Line of Heartaches’

When I interviewed Connie Smith in March 2009, we both lamented the current state of country music, particularly the fact that an entire generation of fans — and performers — are unaware of the genre’s rich heritage. “It’s not their fault,” she commented, “because no one taught them.” With Long Line of Heartaches, her first studio album in 13 years, she undertakes the task of finally showing the younger generation how it’s done. The 12-track collection is both a homage to tradition and a sampling of what country music might once again (hopefully) become.

Comparisons to Smith’s husband Marty Stuart’s recent Ghost Train are inevitable. Both albums were produced by Stuart and feature a generous sampling of the couple’s original compositions. In addition, both albums seek to recreate the traditional sound, while maintaining a contemporary feel, and both albums were recorded in RCA’s legendary Studio B, where most of Connie’s 1960s classics were created.

Long Line of Heartaches makes no concessions to the latest radio trends, perhaps in acknowledgement that it is unlikely to receive much mainstream airplay. As such, no singles have been released. Instead, Stuart and Smith concentrate on creating a collection that sounds right at home with Connie’s 60s hits; the steel guitar is up front and center, as it should be, throughout the album. And as with Ghost Train, they’ve managed to recreate that sound without sounding dated or retro.

The couple contributed five original songs to the album, including the title track, which opens the set. It’s a traditional country shuffle that sets the tone for the entire album, serving notice that this isn’t going to be the typical Nashvegas pop fare. “The Pain of a Broken Heart” was written by Stuart and Smith several years ago, on the same day they wrote “Farmer’s Blues” which Marty recorded with Merle Haggard. The uptempo waltz has a melody that is reminiscent of “The Long Black Veil”, albeit at a faster pace. Connie steps outside of her comfort zone just a bit for “Blue Heartaches”, which proves that she’s as comfortable tinging her country wtih blues as she is at singing straight honky-tonk. Of all the songs she and Marty have written, Connie says this is one of the ones of which she is most proud. My favorite of the Stuart-Smith compositions, however, is “I’m Not Blue”, which they co-wrote with the famed songwriter Kostas. It’s a little more contemporary than the other songs they wrote for the album, and I can’t help but think that somebody could have a big hit on their hands if they covered this song.

In addition to their own compositions, Stuart and Smith armed themselves with stellar material from an impressive line-up of outside songwriters. Harlan Howard and Kostas’ “I Don’t Believe That’s How You Feel” has been recorded many times; Tanya Tucker included it on her 1997 disc Complicated. It’s usually given a Tex-Mex feel complete with mariachi horns, which Connie and Marty omitted on this version. The legendary Dallas Frazier makes a contribution with “A Heart Like You”. Written after a 30-year hiatus from songwriting, it contains one of country music’s all-time great lines — “what’s a heart like you, doing in a fool like me?”, which one wonders why someone didn’t think of before. “My Part of Forever” is another beautiful ballad, which, surprisingly, was originally recorded by Johnny Paycheck. But my favorite song on the album by far is “That Makes Two of Us” which was written by Kostas along with Patty Loveless and Emory Gordy, Jr. This is a beautiful number, impeccably sung, and in a sane world it would be a monster hit. The album closes with a stripped-down, acoustic hymn “Take My Hand”, on which Connie is joined in harmony by her three daughters.

Dolly Parton once named Connie Smith as country music’s greatest female singer in her now famous quote, “There’s really only three female singers in the world: Streisand, Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending.” That may have been an exaggeration, but only a slight one and as strong a case can be made for Smith’s greatness today as when Dolly first spoke those words many years ago. There isn’t a single dud among the twelve tracks on this album. It’s great to have new music from Connie Smith; hopefully she can be persuaded to record more frequently. I don’t want to have wait another 13 years for her next record.

Long Line of Heartaches
can be purchased from Amazon and iTunes.

Grade: A+

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12 responses to “Album Review: Connie Smith – ‘Long Line of Heartaches’

  1. luckyoldsun August 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    When I interviewed Connie Smith in March 2009, we both lamented the current state of country music, particularly the fact that an entire generation of fans — and performers — are unaware of the genre’s rich heritage. “It’s not their fault,” she commented, “because no one taught them.”

    Talk about spitting into the wind.
    Maybe you can interview Petula Clark next and you and she can lament the fact that today’s generation of pop listeners aren’t familiar with her music -or of earlier stars like Johnnie Ray

    • bob August 28, 2011 at 6:58 am

      Talk about spitting into the wind. – Jim Croce in “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim”

      I’m up for that Petula Clark interview. She was one of my favorite female vocalists in the 60′s, long before I got into country music. “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” was a great song and excellent advice.

      • J.R. Journey August 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm

        “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is one of my favorites – possibly the best story song I’ve heard on a mainstream country album this decade.

        • bob August 29, 2011 at 7:16 am

          I like Josh Turner but his cover in my opinion doesn’t match the original solely written and sung by Jim Croce in 1972. With his penchant for story songs, he’s another singer that I think may have gone into country music if he were starting out today.

    • Razor X August 28, 2011 at 7:27 am

      Maybe if you go back and actually read the interview you can get the remarks in their full context and know that Connie wasn’t talking about her own music. For example:

      … let me say that country music is alive and well, but it isn’t being represented on the radio. Everybody should have a chance. And I’ve been very fortunate, so I certainly can’t complain, but what’s being played on the radio is not country and they really shouldn’t call it that. And this is what happens when you lose touch with the past.

      And a little further on:

      It’s not their fault, because no one taught them. How are they supposed to learn when we didn’t teach them, and there isn’t any outlet for them to hear that classic music? As I said, I’ve been very fortunate, so I can’t complain, but there shouldn’t be a day that goes by when you can’t hear George Jones or Waylon Jennings or Loretta Lynn on the radio. There are some young people out there making great country music, but they aren’t getting airplay and aren’t being heard.

      • luckyoldsun August 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        “It’s not their fault, because no one taught them. How are they supposed to learn when we didn’t teach them, ”

        Razor,
        Do you realize how ridiculous and condescending that sounds?

        “I’ve been very fortunate, so I can’t complain, but there shouldn’t be a day that goes by when you can’t hear George Jones or Waylon Jennings or Loretta Lynn on the radio.”
        Heck, I don’t think a day should go by when I can’t hear Jimmie Rodgers, Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Dale Watson and Wayne Hancock on the radio–but for some reason the people who run radio don’t see things as I do, Golly!

        • Razor X August 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm

          Do you realize how ridiculous and condescending that sounds?

          Do you go out of your way to be negative all the time? Is there anybody or anything that you actually like?

        • luckyoldsun August 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm

          Actually, I just mentioned a buch of people and things that I like.

  2. Paul W Dennis August 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Of all the genres of music, the country music of the period before 1984 suffered the most when radio switched to digital in the 1980s – most radio stations, regardless of genre, refused to play music that was not available on CD, which left older material blacked out as far as new listeners were concerned. While rock, jazz and R&B music saw a fair amount of older music quickly reissued in digital format, Nashville’s labels (or more likely, the Nashville label’s bosses in New York) were very slow to reissue much older material. Capitol’s “Collector’s Series” in 1990 started getting acts such as Sonny James, Ferlin Husky and Merle Haggard back in print, but for artists artists on other labels, particularly Decca/MCA and RCA it took much longer, and often when the music finally became available it was on pricey foreign labels. Even today, there are numerous RCA and Decca artists all but unavailable in a digital format domestically.

    By the time a representative sample of older country music was available over a dozen years had passed by, meaning a whole generation that had little or no exposure to the music

  3. Occasional Hope August 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    This is a great record, and any deterioration in Connie’s voice is compensated for by her emotional interpretation, which is absolutely spot-on.

  4. Pingback: Peter Rowan to Write Memoir; Upcoming Randy Travis Gospel Record; B. Jeff Stone Passes Away - Engine 145

  5. Pingback: Occasional Hope’s Top 10 Albums of 2011 « My Kind Of Country

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