Though nominated for a Grammy in 2010 on a duet with husband Marty Stuart, Connie Smith’s new album, Long Line of Heartaches, is the first time the classic country singer can be heard on a full release of her own since 1998’s self-titled effort. Long Line of Heartaches, a collection of 12 burning tracks, is a poignant return to form as Connie delivers the heartbreak beautifully through her timeless voice.
Connie wrote five of the album’s songs with Marty, who serves as the project’s producer. Opening with a trademark “Connie Smith Sound” pedal steel guitar lick, the record’s title track issues a statement that followers of traditional country should stand on high alert. Oh, it does you no good, when those burning teardrops fall/ sayin’ everything’s gonna be alright to a heart that’s seen it all, Connie sings with a vintage honky tonk touch on “Long Line of Heartaches,” reminiscent of greats like Loretta Lynn. Many of the songs on the album tell stories with heart-wrenching clarity about trying to be as strong as possible in the face of lost love. Surrounded by reverb-heavy guitar on the dreamy “I’m Not Blue,” Connie sings, You may think I’m falling apart/ but I’m just missin’ all the love we knew, before admitting, The truth gets hard to say when pride stands in the way/ So just let me lie to you/ I’m not blue.
“Ain’t You Even Gonna Cry,” a slow, acoustic-based ballad and one of the album’s standouts, features Connie’s voice richly conveying the hurt and dumbfounded disbelief of a woman realizing she cares more than the man she’s leaving. Ain’t you even gonna cry?/ Hell, I’m walkin’ out the door, she asks through the pain. While the instrumentation includes a full band that grows more prominent throughout the song, like the subject’s courage to leave, the stripped down arrangement offers the listener a chance to concentrate on Connie’s vocal and soak up all the tears.
Later in the album, “Blue Heartaches” works in nice contrast to the mostly traditional country songs with tasteful, bluesy piano fills and some swinging acoustic guitar. Connie’s voice shines as it takes on soulful new depths singing, I never knew the meaning of lonesome/ ‘til you were gone and I was talkin’ to the wall. On “That Makes Two of Us” (written by Kostas, Patty Loveless and Emory Gordy, Jr), emotions run deep in a complicated display of admitting guilt while simultaneously offering forgiveness. Are you sorry just like me? Don’t you wish you could erase the things you didn’t mean?, Connie tellingly sings before adding, If you look into my eyes you’re gonna find/ That makes two of us.
After 13 years, Long Line of Heartaches not only displays that Connie still has that special touch to turn melodies and words into stirring tales of emotion, but that her voice is as sharp as ever while it cuts into raw, universal feelings. Long Line of Heartaches offers a hard look at the complexities of love, and with Connie’s strong voice leading the discussion, listeners will be hanging on every word.