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Connie Smith at Old Town School Of Folk Music 9.26.2010

“Dynamic Voice, Legendary Name; Connie Smith Visits Chicago"

 

By Christian Scalise

 

It's not every so often that an unmistakable class of uniquely raw talent comes along into the world of music and when it does you better damn well appreciate it for all its worth. Undeniably that was the case at the Old Town School Of Folk Music on Sunday September 26th when Grand Ole Opry member and Country Music legend Connie Smith made a very rare concert appearance in the Chicago land area.

 

It has been five years since the iconic songbird last visited the quaint venue located just outside of downtown Chicago; not sure why the wait but her greatly anticipated return was definitely long overdue!

 

One of country music’s greatest vocalists, Connie Smith has been an important figure in the history of country music and its musical progression over the last 50 years. Having been a professional singer since the early 1960’s, Smith won a local talent contest in 1963 which caught the attention of singer/songwriter and Opry star Bill Anderson. Impressed by her vocal abilities, Bill encouraged Connie to move to Nashville where she was later signed by RCA Records the following year.

 

Emerging onto the Billboard charts on September 26th, 1964 (How ironic to witness her perform that very hit 46 years later to the day) with her first single “Once A Day,” which went on to claim the #1 spot for eight consecutive weeks. Top 5 and Top 10 singles such as "Then and Only Then," "If I Talk to Him, “Nobody but a Fool (Would Love You)," "Ain't Had No Lovin'," "The Hurtin's All Over," "Cincinnati, Ohio," "Just One Time," "If It Ain't Love (Let's Leave It Alone)" and "Ain't Love a Good Thing" shortly followed.

 

Supporting act Robbie Fulks opened the show at 7:30pm with a roughly thirty-minute showcase of rootsy/American Alternative Country Music with a comedic twist. Fulks tours nationally, but resides in Chicago and frequents many local venues throughout the year for the most part.

 

At 8:15pm, Connie Smith took the stage wearing a stylish pair of fitted denim jeans covered by sequin encrusted lace on the legs with a fitted black jacket adorned with sparkly fringed tassels. Just shy of turning 70 next year (August 14th), it’s unbelievably remarkable how the singer upholds her stunning psychical appearance; her exterior beauty has never faded, and her powerful voice has only become more confident and mature. The test of time has proved well for Connie Smith and the result is an artist embellished with finesse and timeless appeal.     

 

Starting off the evening with rousingly delightful performances of “I’ve Got My Baby On My Mind” and “The Key’s In The Mailbox,” Connie hit notes only most artists could dream of reaching. She immediately received a warm welcome from the audience upon her finish.

 

“Here’s a song that was written for me by my Opry buddies Bill Anderson and Jan Howard,” Connie told the audience. The song, “I Never Once Stopped Loving You” is a heart wrenching ballad that has become a well-known favorite among the Grand Ole Opry circle and country music industry.

 

Showing the utmost humility and appreciation, Connie reiterated a quote cited about her by music icon Dolly Parton; “There’s only three real female singers: Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending.”

 

“I love the Dolly quote and I thank her for the kind words, but that’s a hard act to follow” Connie jokingly told the audience to which they replied in laughter.

 

Citing many of her musical heroes during the evening, Connie shared her love and admiration for the late great Marty Robbins by paying homage to him on “Ribbon Of Darkness,” the late Hank Cochran on “Darling Are You Ever Coming Home” and the late Harlan Howard on the pedal steel infused “The Hurtin’s All Over.”

 

The sweet sounds of the vocal powerhouse known as Connie Smith sent chills throughout the entire theater giving the audience a very intimate glimpse into her life and career through the music and lyrics.

 

Showing honest admiration for her band, Connie gave each band member the opportunity to showcase their exceptional talents as musicians. Steel player Gary Carter performed an outstanding solo of “Lonely Street,” while drummer Rick McClure offered an impressive solo on the drums of “Eastbound and Down” a tune heard many times on the Grand Ole Opry stage.

 

The audience consisted mostly of middle aged, laid back concertgoers that were respectfully attentive but not so interactive except a man that yelled out, “I think I love you Connie” from his seat to which Connie swiftly replied “I love you too.”

 

Sharing a story behind the song, Connie told the audience that “Looking For A Reason,” a tender ballad that featured a stripped down performance at the start with the entire band joining in mid-song was written about her husband Marty Stuart.

 

“Once A Day,” Connie’s signature hit was introduced by her telling the audience that many women have since recorded the song after her, but she was the very first woman to record it.

 

After her performance Connie told the audience that one of the other women singers to record “Once A Day” was country music legend Loretta Lynn; “Loretta is my all time favorite girl singer. I’m going to perform the song how Loretta would do it just for fun.” Connie’s respectfully humorous impression of Loretta left the audience delighted and intrigued.

 

Closing out the wondrous night of music, Connie mentioned her dear friend Bill Mac; “A great friend of mine from Texas wrote this song for me and I got to be the first woman to record it.”

 

The song “Clinging To A Saving Hand” prompted a series of uplifting Gospel inspired standards such as Gospel/Country Music legend Martha Carson’s “Satisfied,” “Peace In The Valley” and a show stopping emotion-filled performance of “How Great Thou Art.”

 

Underrated, yes but Connie Smith is one of music’s grandest assets and always will be. Her entire persona is built upon pure talent and a devoted foundation of love for her faith as a Christian.

 

**We'd like to thank Nick Macri and the Old Town School Of Folk Music for allowing us to cover the show!!**

 

Set List:

 

1. I’ve Got My Baby On My Mind

 

2. The Key’s In The Mailbox

 

3. I Never Once Stopped Loving You

 

4. Ribbon Of Darkness

 

5. You’ve Got Me Right Where You Want Me

 

6. How Long

 

7. Lonely Street (Steel Guitar Solo by Gary Carter)

 

8. Nobody But A Fool (Duet with Rod Ham)

 

9. Eastbound And Down (Drum Solo by Rick McClure)

 

10. Burning A Hole In My Mind

 

11. I’ll Come Running

 

12. Run Away Little Tears

 

13. Ain’t Had No Lovin’

 

14. Looking For A Reason

 

15. Cincinnati, Ohio

 

16. Once A Day

 

17. Clinging To A Saving Hand

 

18. Satisfied

 

19. Peace In The Valley

 

20. How Great Thou Art

 

 

Visit Connie Smith's official website here: http://www.conniesmithmusic.com/

 

 

Enjoy pictures from the show below;

 

Classic Connie Smith

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