Sunday, October 2, 2011

Connie Smith – Long Line Of Heartaches (CD Review)

Connie Smith – Long Line Of Heartaches (CD Review)


1. Long Line of Heartaches 2. I'm Not Blue 3. Pain of a Broken Heart 4. Ain't You Even Gonna Cry
5. I Don't Believe That's How You Feel 6. Heart Like You 7. Anymore 8. That Makes Two of Us
9. You and Me 10. My Part of Forever 11. Blue Heartaches 12. Take My Hand

Label – Sugar Hill
UPC - 015891407227
Release - 23 August 2011
Time - 37:08
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For old school country fans Connie Smith’s album LONG LINE OF HEARTACHES was an eagerly awaited event and a long time in the making with her first full album of new material since 1998 (self-titled album for Warner Bros. Records) and would you believe it only her second since her 1978 release called NEW HORIZONS. For someone like myself who was relatively late to the country scene when drawn to the genre during the 90’s “New Country” wave this album is therefore something of an “an introduction too” .

So what does the Connie Smith fact file reveal and why is she so valued by country fans and artists alike. Country super star Dolly Parton is quoted as saying “There are only three real female singers on this planet: Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, and Connie Smith. The rest of us are just pretending". Tanya Tucker who apparently does a great Connie take-off was someone who was inspired by her and went to seek advice at a very young age.

70 year old Connie was born Constance June Meador on August 14, 1941. Back in 1964 at the age of 23 she burst onto the scene when her debut single ‘Once A Day’ written by Bill Anderson. It topped the country chart for eight weeks which was the first debut single by a female to do so and holds the record as the most weeks to hold the top place. The song was also covered by Martina McBride for her TIMELESS record and has performed it with Smith on the Grand Ole Opry stage.

The 60’s were frantic, whirlwind heydays for Smith, within a year she joined The Grand Old Opry in Aug 1965. As a young contemporary hip singer the industry pushed her image as “Cute ‘N Country”. Over her career she has 53 albums to her name including 34 studio Albums, 1 Live and 12 compilations. Smith's singles have accounted for 20 Top 10 hits and three of her first four studio albums reached #1. Back then albums and singles rapidly came off the Nashville production line making 3 albums a year and a single every three months! She admits to being privy and very fortunate to have the pick of songs from some of the song writing stalwarts Don Gibson, Bill Anderson, Harlan Howard and Dallas Frazier. Previous to this new album Connie had cut 68 of Frazier’s songs and her nineteenth studio album IF IT AIN’T LOVE and OTHER GREAT DALLAS FRAZIER SONGS consisted entirely of his scores. In 1988, he left the music industry and became a minister.
By 1968 Smith with the stress of tours, recording and promoting whilst trying to maintain some sort of personal life started to feel the heavy pressures it endured even contemplating the thought of suicide. She turned to faith as a safe haven and became a Born Again Christian. By 1979 she decided to go into semi-retirement to raise her 5 children.
In 2003 she was joined by Barbara Fairchild and Sharon White to make a collaborative gospel album. She has kept herself busy working on the road now has 8 grandchildren and has been involved with her husband’s projects. She has been married to Marty Stuart for 14 years.

It was he who encouraged her to make another album but it was Dallas Frazier who broke a 30-year drought as a songwriter which provided the catalyst for this project which made the cut with a co-write ‘Heart Like You’.
"I may have put off making a new record for quite a while," Connie says, "but I still love to sing just as much as I ever did. I really feel that it's my destiny; I heard the saying, one time, 'Do what God tells you 'til he tells you something else,' and he hasn't told me anything else yet”

Marty Stuart produced the album and as an ace guitarist lends his skills. Stuart and Smith have 5 songwriting collaborations one of which the country-blues Patsy Cline-like Blue Heartaches’ was started some 15-years back before they were married. Another is the lead-off track ‘Long Line of Heartaches’ which sets the style with a range of traditional country moods, themes, rhythms with a lush country sound laden with gorgeous pedal steel. This sounds like a timeless classic from the 70’s but brought to life with good separation and a crisp and clean modern production. Connie’s band she names The Sundowners play on the album they consist of Rod Hamm (vocals), Rick McClure (drums), Rick Wright (electric guitar, gut string guitar, vocals) and Gary Carter (pedal steel) joined by additional musicians Robby Turner (pedal steel), Paul Martin (bass, vibraphone) and Dirk Johnson (piano).

I’m Not Blue’ written with Kostas has a melody close to “Raining In My Heart”. Smith’s voice is elegant on a number where truth gets hard to say when pride blocks its path. Pedal steel cries and tears fall on the mid-tempo ‘Pain of a Broken Heart’ when love slips away. On the slow tempo heartbreaker ‘Ain't You Even Gonna Cry’ (written by Johnny Russell) Connie turns up the melancholy complemented by whining steel and glorious acoustic riffs. ‘I Don't Believe That’s How You Feel’ a Harlan Howard / Kostas composition first appeared on Tracy Byrd’s 1996 BIG LOVE. On this toe-tapper the slate is wiped clean so that love can be renewed for a couple.

The standout, steel drenched ‘Heart Like You’ (Youtube audio) from the pen of Glenn Ashworth and Frazier speaks of an estranged couple where mistakes cannot be overturned, pride engulfs wisdom, trust is lost and one of the protagonists counts the cost of broken dreams. Smith perfectly milks very emotion from each word delivering the killer line – “‘What’s a heart like you doing in a fool like

Love dies and turns ice cold on ‘Anymore’ a Roy Drusky cut which was #3 on the country songs chart in 1960 (see Youtube video). On ‘That Makes Two of Us’ a Patty Loveless and husband Emory Gordy composition it begs the question if the clocks can be tuned back to heel a love that once blossomed but was sadly gone astray. This beautifully melodic song features some tasteful guitar picking with Connie humming along in its later stages. The heartache continues on the honky-tonk number ‘You And Me’.

Connie changes the gender reference on ‘Part Of Forever’ (written by Jerry Foster and Wilburn Rice) which was originally recorded by Johnny Paycheck and gained a #19 spot in 1974 (see Youtube video). On this tender ballad Connie’s vocal is silky smooth and offers a love for tomorrow but refuses to be the substitute person to relive a partners dreams and free the chains of love and memories that caused much heartache - “The life you had with her is not mine to live, My part of forever is all I can give

The slow paced gospel infused closer ‘Takes My Hand’ sounds like a standard but was written a year or so back by Diane Berry .Smith’s 3 daughters Julie, Jeanne and Jodi join her to add some sweet harmonies.
There is a little too much “blue” on this album for my tender heart but it does what it says on the tin. There should be a long line of traditional country fans queuing up to buy this one to soak up Connie Smith’s golden voice once more on a record.



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