Keith Whitley's tragic bio easily transfers to TV dramas and celebrity gossip. During the '70s he gained a reputation as a skillful musician and singer working with top-notch bluegrass bands including Ralph Stanley and J.D. Crowe, but by the '80s, he made his play for fame and fortune with a traditional country sound. Whitley soon won fame and fortune, but by 1989, he was dead of alcohol poisoning. Incredibly, the songs represented by 16 Biggest Hits all reached the charts between 1984 and 1991, showing just what a moving force Whitley's music was during these years. Five, including "When You Say Nothing at All" in 1988 and "I'm No Stranger to the Rain" in 1989, reached number one. In a way then, 16 Biggest Hits not only represents a nice sampling of Whitley's most popular singles, but also something of a country music time capsule of the era. The material also offers a snapshot of new and neo-traditionalist music from the era, a style that partially returned to country music's roots. What really stands out on this collection, though, is Whitley's vocal treatment of ballads like "I Wonder Do You Think of Me" and "Would These Arms Be in Your Way." His soulful, gritty delivery adds authenticity to these numbers, leaving the listener to understand that he, unlike a lot of country singers to follow, was actually born in the South (Kentucky). For anyone looking for a one-stop collection of Whitley's best-remembered songs, 16 Hits more than fits the bill.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.