Connie Smith: Long Line Of Heartaches

This appeared in the Sacramento Bee - August 22, 2011

A consistent hitmaker in the '60s and '70s, Connie Smith has done little recording since then. This is her first album since 1996 and only her second since '78 (although she does appear on the Grand Ole Opry and The Marty Stuart Show).

After hearing this, you'll be asking: What took so long? Starting with the title, Long Line of Heartaches is an out-of-the-box classic. Produced by Stuart, Smith's husband, it's straight-up traditional country - shuffles, ballads, a modern-day hymn - with five songs co-written by the couple and seven others by such noted writers as Harlan Howard, Dallas Frazier, and Johnny Russell.

Stuart flawlessly crafts spare but lively frameworks for the lyrics - no fiddle, but plenty of steel. It's the 70-year-old Smith, however, still in robust voice, who ultimately makes this such a triumph. In the title song, she sings about "a heart that's seen it all." And that's the sense she conveys, and what makes these performances so soul-stirring. Until further notice, this is the country record of the year.

By Nick Cristiano

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