Connie Smith (from the album The Cry of the Heart on Fat Possum Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Connie Smith is decidedly old school. She made her debut in 1964, racked up a string of Country hits and quickly earned the admiration of such contemporaries as George Jones, Dolly Parton, and Merle Haggard. Marty Stuart was so enamored with her that he not only signed on as her producer, but signed on as her husband as well.
The partnership’s paid off with three albums the two have done in tandem, but that said, Smith’s releases have been inexplicably absent of late. The Cry of the Heart marks her first recording in a decade, and yet given the results, it’s not at all apparent that she’s lost her knack for tugging on the heartstrings when it comes to songs about wrecked relationships and the pitfalls of failed romance. After all, she remains deeply rooted in Classic Country conceits.
To that end, she comes out wailing on opening track “A Million and One”, assuring her authoritative presence as a true Country crooner. Connie Smith is an assertive singer, one who operates in the same strata as such singular superstars as Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Dolly Parton. It’s little surprise then that on songs like “Look Out Heart”, “To Pieces”, “Here Comes My Baby Back Again”, “All the Time”, and “Three Sides” in particular, she delivers the material with an emotion and conviction that clearly recalls sounds of iconic origins.
Of course, Smith has always had a knack for mining choice material, and on Cry of the Heart she taps into tunes written by such well-regarded songwriters as Carl Jackson, Mel Tillis, and Dallas Frazier. However, she also expands her reach courtesy of several songs that were written for her by her husband, including two the couple penned together, the aforementioned “Here Comes My Baby Back Again” and “Spare Me No Truth Tonight”.
Notably too, as one might expect, Connie Smith is complemented by an all-star ensemble, including members of Marty Stuart’s band, The Fabulous Superlatives, and piano legend, and longtime studio staple, Hargus “Pig” Robbins. They add that ageless authenticity and make each of these offerings sound like classics from the get-go. That makes The Cry of the Heart a plea worth heeding. (By Lee Zimmerman)
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