Arriving three years after Dick Curless' big breakthrough hit "A Tombstone Every Mile," the 1968 album The Long Lonesome Road is something of a trucker classic: a rough-and-tumble pseudo song cycle about the pleasures and perils of the road. Curless cut the record in Memphis after a prolonged spell on the West Coast and the LP is appealingly caught between these two worlds, retaining the lean, lanky masculinity of Bakersfield but given a cinematic sweetness that points the way toward the Music City. This makes The Long Lonesome Road distinctly a creation of the late '60s, part progressive and part pop, aware that the times are changing and "You Can't Go Back Again," yet keenly yearning for tradition. Curless' fathomless baritone anchors these songs, not lending them gravity but rather a weathered reality. Unlike his clear predecessor Johnny Cash, Curless never mines these tunes for pathos -- not even when he's singing "Bury the Bottle with Me," a song that plays less fatalistic than its lyrics -- he is matter-of-fact, shrugging off any traces of sadness and emitting only the wriest chuckle on the happier tunes. Any embellishments are left to producer Jack Clement, who gives The Long Lonesome Road textures heretofore unheard on a Curless record, and this richness makes it one of his very best LPs.
Omni's greatly expanded 2011 reissue of The Long Lonesome Road adds 19 bonus tracks to the original album. Per Omni tradition, the bonus tracks are selected for theme, not popularity: the big hit "A Tombstone Every Mile" is here and so are the early-'70s drinking songs "Loser's Cocktail" and "Stonin' Around," but earlier and later hits are passed by, particularly if they have a little levity to them (no "Chick Inspector [That's Where My Money Goes]," in other words). There is some, but not much, overlap with Razor & Tie's 1998 collection Drag Em Off the Interstate, Sock It to Em: The Hits of Dick Curless collection, so this winds up as an excellent supplement to that fine comp, particularly considering that there is a distinct dearth of digital Dick Curless: it's either these single discs or Bear Family's big boxes.