It's been suggested that she didn't take the artistic risks of her "outlaw" friends Waylon and Willie and that's why she was unable to repeat the commercial success she achieved with her sultry 1971 version of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night". However, I argue that maybe it was harder for Sammi to find her "groove" because her vocal talent was so unique in the country field. Sammi's voice delivered a mixture of dusky sensuality and ages-old weariness that required a certain amount of delicacy in production in order to capture the nuances of her delivery, particularly in ballads.
What makes Sammi Smith special for me is that she sounds like a young woman who's lived a thousand lives, and her soul has survived to tell the tale of centuries of heartbreak. And that's why her performances on songs like "Saunders Ferry Lane," and "Today I Started Loving You Again" are so compelling.
If you read bios about Sammi you'll find the running narrative of a promising artist who missed opportunity. But, maybe her life success shouldn't be defined by hit records. Maybe Sammi Smith didn't miss opportunity at all, she simply chose to seize an opportunity outside of commercial success. Perhaps her contributions should be measured differently, by her work to advocate for the civil rights and advancement of the Apache people, something ultimately more meaningful and longer-lasting than chasing the charts of the music industry.
The record I've chosen to feature today is from the period just following Sammi's break from the "Nashville Sound" of Mega Records. Here we find a playful Sammi on a rarely heard uptempo stomper. It's great for the dance floor, so come kick up those boot heals tomorrow night (3/28) at the Kenton Club as I celebrate Sammi and her other lady contemporaries at Touch Your Woman 4.