Smith’s first LP since 1998, both classic and classicist in feel.
Andrew Mueller 2011
If Long Line of Heartaches tends toward the generic in its approach to country – and it does – Connie Smith has more excuse than most. Her first ever hit, a 1964 reading of Bill Anderson’s Once a Day, remains an enduring and reliable country template. The song itself is perfect, a simple and irresistible melody carrying an equally straightforward yet effective lyrical twist, the verses noting that the singer only misses their departed lover once a day, the choruses elaborating that it’s once a day, every day, all day long. Once a Day has since been covered by Lynn Anderson, George Jones, Glen Campbell, Dean Martin and The Triffids, among many others, but nobody has sung it better.
Long Line of Heartaches is the 70-year-old Smith’s first album of new work since 1998, and only her second since 1978. The high sheen of the production aside, it could have been recorded at any time in the five decades her career has spanned. These are classic and classicist country songs, five co-written by Smith with her husband and producer Marty Stuart, the rest selected from the catalogues of such esteemed Nashville sages as Harlan Howard, Jerry Galen Foster and Johnny Russell. They all have in common the lyrical preoccupation that might be surmised from the title: these are all tears-in-your-beer laments to love gone wrong.
Smith has often been compared to Patsy Cline, and not altogether without reason, but she lacks Cline’s capacity for breathy melodrama, with the result that the ballads don’t quite work – I’m Not Blue and Russell’s Ain’t You Even Gonna Cry sound detached and forced, more like excerpts from a musical than songs in their own right. On the more upbeat numbers, though, she’s terrific, lending a hearty, throaty defiance to the swinging Buck Owens-like You and Me and Howard’s I Don’t Believe That’s How You Feel.