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Russell Smith

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Russell Smith was the lead singer/songwriter for the Amazing Rhythm Aces; he penned the group’s “Third Rate Romance,” which has since become a contemporary country classic. It brought the group some success, too, helping the group’s 1975 debut, Stacked Deck, reach the country Top 15 and spin off another hit in “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song),” and after a couple of moderate country hits, the group slowly became consigned to cult status, a favorite of fellow musicians and songwriters as well as discerning country-rock fans.

These are the same people who followed Smith’s solo career in the late ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, but it took even more dedication to be a fan of Russell Smith, since his solo records received little or no distribution in the U.S., with his second album, The Boy Next Door, never being released in the States. In fact, Raven’s 2001 collection Sunday Best: The Cream of the Solo Albums presents the first time most of these 23 tracks have shown up on disc, and its release is something to be celebrated, since it offers a persuasive argument that Smith is one of the finest overlooked roots-oriented songwriters of his time.

Smith’s gifts are so subtle and easy that they can be easy to overlook. His music is rooted in country, but it slyly works in blues and soul influences, wrapped in a sleek, polished production that places it firmly within the ’80s soft rock tradition (surely the synthesizers and big, open rhythm sections are hallmarks of ’80s radio).

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