SONNY AND THE SUNSETS - Longtime Companion

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The first country record of Sonny & the Sunsets, Longtime Companion, has grown into a bit of a cult classic. So much that tours have been made under the fitting moniker Sonny & His Rhinestone Sunsets, with Smith swapping out his doo wop garage ensembles and replacing with full country bands. In the lineage of Gene Clark, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, a little Johnny Cash, even the countrier side of the Kinks. When Sonny Smith's ten-year relationship started to hit the skids, he picked up his guitar and chronicled his eventual breakup with the Sunsets' third record, Longtime Companion. Joined by the Sunsets plus his country band the Fuckaroos, Smith toes the line between contemporary sometimes Country performers like Angel Olson or Shannon Shaw (both of whom he's collaborated with) 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 banjo and string band tunes around the house, Smith surely finds comfort in returning to his roots in the wake of personal upheaval, and it’s ultimately a fitting platform for his brokenhearted reflections.