Sonny & The Sunsets

I’m just going to go on record and say that country Sonny is my favorite Sonny. Now I love the Sunsets all the way through, but when Longtime Companion touched down, it seemed like it somehow made more sense than some of the other pop tributaries that have been followed under the Sunsets’ tenure. It seems that last year Smith has returned to the same impulses that birthed that gem back in 2012, before the world went off axis and sequestered us all with only stark thoughts to feed us for months. Before the breakdown, Sonny was there, writing about lonesome men, broken relationships, solitude, sorrow, seediness, and the ache that keeps us all awake at night. When Sonny breaks country, there’s a certain magic that happens. The songs are still ‘60s pop nuggets, but the lines deepen and the headache hubris only holds us all tighter.

With pedal steel from Joe Goldmark, the colors turn from pastel to pale tans and ochre, melodies swaying with the afternoon breeze, wafting in strains of Sir Douglas Sahm, Commander Cody, and Kinky Friedman from the AM radio outside. Smith’s humor has always been at the forefront, but that’s not to say that he can’t hit the vein every time as well. He puts up a bit of bluster, but underneath his songwriting has a late night sadness to it, mulling thoughts that only circle the mind when no shoulders are left to cry on.

Alongside the new material, he deftly reinterprets a few tracks here, as well. Giving new heft to Rocks In Your Head alums Galore’s “Leaker” and even his own back catalog, he works the Antenna to the Afterworld scrapper “Palm Reader” into an affecting new anthem of loneliness and sour luck. With the way the indie winds are blowing, its certainly time for any act to turn country, but Sonny proves that he was way ahead on the current shift towards indie twang, and he’s still doing it with a knowing smile and a heavy heart. This one stands atop the Sunsets catalog as one of the essentials in my opinion.

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