Carl Smith

Happy Birthday My Darlin'

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Carl Smith had a long and successful career in country music, but this anthology is drawn from a period at which he'd passed his artistic and commercial peak. The 22 tracks are taken from his stint at the Hickory label in the mid- to late '70s, though you'd barely be able to figure that out from the risibly perfunctory annotation, which only alludes to this once in passing and provides no release or recording dates. Smith had no hits on Hickory, and while the material is sincerely sung and plainly produced with little of the excess found in many mainstream country recordings of the era, the tunes are kind of drab. The songs are largely in the stoic lament camp, and not all that memorable (though there are a few Hank Williams covers). When Smith shifts gears into a more jovial mood on "Silver-Tongued Cowboy," it's such an anomaly in the company of this march of mild sorrowful paeans that it comes as a jolt to the system.

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