Long Line of Heartaches by Connie Smith

Connie Smith has made heartbreak sound irresistible ever since her 1964 debut hit, “Once a Day,” which manages to carry an eternal ache inside an impossibly upbeat shuffle.

On her first country-centered collection in 13 years, she revisits that sweet-and-sour formula to fine effect. Hitting a sweet spot between honky-tonk and the more sophisticated Nashville Sound of yore, Long Line of Heartaches delivers unapologetically traditional fare without resorting to self-conscious nostalgia.

Ms. Smith, her producer (and husband) Marty Stuart and their top-flight musicians simply play by old-school rules on songs that alternately summon the spirits of Bakersfield and Nashville circa the 1960s (minus the syrupy violins that once poured like rain from Music City). She evokes Patsy Cline on the bluesy, Ray Price-esque “Blue Heartaches” and offers a deeply emotional vocal on the prayerlike “Take My Hand,” though elsewhere Connie forgoes drama for satisfying, no-frills performances that—as on her vintage material—share the spotlight with pristine and tasteful pedal steel.

It’s been a long time since country music hurt this good.

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