Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Carl Smith: Columbia Historic Edition [Columbia, 1984]
Smith's 20 1951-55 country top 10s beat Hank Williams, Hank Thompson, Lefty Frizzell, even Webb Pierce, beat everybody but Eddy Arnold. Which suggests his problem. He's almost forgotten today because his smooth baritone was the stuff of popularity, not legend. He didn't write much, and he didn't really interpret much either--he was just a vessel for Nashville tunesmiths to pour their product into. But unlike Eddy Arnold, he had no aptitude for the pop sellout, favoring honky-tonk arrangements that inflected his unflamboyant if Nudie-clad persona toward hard-core country. This collection will ring a bell with those who enjoy homely conjugal tropes, the previously unreleased "No Second Chance" no less than the number one "Don't Just Stand There." And though the number one "Hey, Joe" would have been more welcome than either of the side-closing "sacred" nonhits, I'll bet Smith and the fans who remember him prefer it this way. A-