Sammi Smith (1943-2005) was one of the pioneering women of the 1970s "outlaw country" scene... After scoring a major Nashville hit with her version of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night," she moved to Texas around the same time as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and became a mainstay in the Texas outlaw scene. Her husband, Jody Payne, became Nelson's guitarist in the early '70s; their son, Waylon Payne, has recorded several alt-country albums. At the end of the 1970s, Smith largely retired from the music business, although she recorded sporadically in the next couple of decades... Here's a quick look at her work.
Sammi Smith "The Best Of..." (Varese Sarabande, 2001)
This is the best overview of Smith's work, packed with solid, durable country oldies, and many of her biggest hits. It may also be the only legitimate CD release of her work so far... Definitely worth checking out!
Sammi Smith "Sammi With A Bullet" (Sterling Entertainment, 2001)
Sammi Smith "Help Me Make It Through The Night" (Mega, 1970) (LP)
Sammi Smith "Lonesome" (Mega, 1971) (LP)*
Sammi Smith "Something Old, Something New, Something Blue" (Mega, 1972) (LP)
Sammi Smith "The Toast Of '45" (Mega, 1973) (LP)
Sammi Smith "The Rainbow In Daddy's Eyes" (Mega, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Malloy)
The repertoire is the main draw for this album, which otherwise is characterized by sweet vocals and bland, snoozy arrangements, compliments of Bill Walker. (Bergen White arranged four tracks out of ten, and these are all modestly more lively than the Walker tracks.) The songs, though, are interesting -- she revives Rex Griffin's "Last Letter" and "Faded Love" from the Bob Wills catalog, tackles Hoyt Axton's "Never Been To Spain," and gives a nod to Arlo Guthrie on a convincing (though still snoozy) version of "City Of New Orleans." Standouts include the Willie Nelson-ish "It's Not Easy" (which Smith wrote herself) and the title track, "The Rainbow In Daddy's Eyes," about a daughter who suffers while her dreamer daddy keeps pursuing pipe dreams instead of providing for his family: in the end, all they have left is prayer, which they offer when he tragically kicks the bucket. Also notable is the album's closer, "Birmingham Mistake," a moody, "Ballad Of Billy Joe"-ish tune written from the point of view of a "love child" put up for adoption at birth, who spends the rest of her life trying to overcome the stigma: it's possible it may have also been an interracial affair, but that's not entirely clear from the lyrics. Mostly, this is a pretty lethargic record, though as always Smith herself is a compelling presence. Worth a spin or two, with a few tunes you might want to keep on your radar.
Sammi Smith "Sunshine" (Mega, 1975) (LP)
Sammi Smith "Today I Started Loving You Again" (Mega, 1975) (LP)
Sammi Smith "As Long As There's Sunday" (Elektra, 1976) (LP)*
Sammi Smith "Mixed Emotions" (Elektra, 1977) (LP)
Sammi Smith "New Winds, All Quadrants" (Elektra, 1978) (LP)
Sammi Smith "Girl Hero" (Cyclone, 1979) (LP)
Sammi Smith "Better Than Ever" (Step One, 1986)
Sammi Smith "Here Comes That Rainbow Again" (Playback, 1991)
Hick Music Index