When Sonny Smith's ten-year relationship started to hit the skids, he picked up his guitar and chronicled his eventual breakup with Sonny & the Sunsets' third record, Longtime Companion. To mirror the change in his personal life he also shifted sonically, eschewing his indie pop past to draw inspiration from one of the richest sources of heartbreak storytelling, country music. Joined by the Sunsets plus his country band the Fuckaroos, Smith toes the line between treading the dusty roads traveled before him by classic bands like the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers and contemporary performers like Neko Case and Jolie Holland (both of whom he's collaborated with earlier in his career) and honoring his ramshackle pop origins. Whether longing for a place back in his ex's heart on the lilting "Pretend You Love Me," finding "a funny kind of sad joy" in the emptiness of her eyes on the bitter "I See the Void," or recounting an affair with a divorcée on the woeful/wistful "Children of the Beehive," Smith mostly keeps the lyrics simple, which makes Longtime Companion more universally relatable and, by holding the details close to the vest, conjures the feeling of him wandering the world on his own as he rediscovers his identity as a single man. And sure enough, when he's not singing about his relationship he's self-analyzing, confessing to drinking too much ("Dried Blood"), pondering existential crisis ("I Was Born"), or laying his mental state flat out ("My Mind Messed Up"). Growing up with a father who played fiddle and string band tunes around the house as well as performed in a mountain music band, Smith surely finds comfort in returning to his roots in the wake of personal upheaval, and though this change of genre may initially throw Sonny & the Sunsets fans for a loop, it's ultimately a fitting platform for his brokenhearted reflections.
AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie