As an LP, this 16 song compilation, covering the years 1936-1951, was a supremely admirable effort at an overview of Roy Acuff's 16 years with the American Record Corporation (ARC) and Columbia Records, and was notable for the inclusion of five previously unissued sides. It was supposed to be heard, ideally, in tandem with the label's Greatest Hits collection, but it stands well on its own; as a CD it still holds up, presenting the earliest renditions of a brace of songs that became not only Acuff standards, but standards for country music in his hands, most notably "Wabash Cannon Ball" in its 1936 rendition, with Sam "Dynamite" Hatcher on vocals. Pete "Oswald" Kirby shines at various points on the late 1930s sides and beyond with his rippling banjo work and distinctive, bluesy dobro sound. The most fascinating thing about this collection is how relatively little Acuff's sound changed over the decade and a half represented -- his music embraced blues, folk, gospel, pop, bluegrass, and a host of other elements, but he still had an authentic, raw country sound in the early 1950s, long after he had moved into very profitable and sophisticated areas behind the scenes in the business of country music. There may be a better, more comprehensive single volume on Acuff's Columbia years forthcoming someday, but the budget price of this disc, coupled with the quality of the notes by John Rumble of the Country Music Foundation and the excellent tape research by producers Bob Pinson and Michael Brooks, make this a definite choice addition to any country collection.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder