Epic/Legacy's 2004 The Essential David Allan Coe is the first non-budget line DAC compilation since 1985's double-album/single-CD For the Record: The First 10 Years, and while it shares some considerable overlap with that 20-track overview (11 of the 14 songs on Essential are on For the Record), it's a welcome addition to his catalog. One of the reasons is that it simply sounds better, thanks to a new round of remasterings, but a more important reason is that this compilation distills Coe's work to a lean, mean 14 songs, containing all of his big hits and signature songs, from the heartbreaking "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)" through such rough, rowdy, funny outlaw anthems as "You Never Even Called Me by My Name," "Tennessee Whiskey," "If That Ain't Country," and "Take This Job and Shove It." The conciseness of this compilation may mean that it doesn't hint at all the odd detours in his career -- if you're looking for that, turn toward For the Record -- but it does provide an excellent introduction to this legendary renegade, and for those already acquainted with this longhaired redneck, it's simply one hell of a good time.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: George Jones