Representing the band's most lucrative years, Twenty Years of Dirt is a collection of hits from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's late-'70s to mid-'80s era, with tracks from 1979's American Dream, 1984's Plain Dirt Fashion, and 1985's Partners, Brothers, and Friends, among others. Songs like Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," which gave them their only Top Ten hit, and the soothing vocal stylings of the Jimmy Buffet-like "American Dream" showcase the group's country-rock finesse. While "American Dream" has Linda Ronstadt helping out on vocals, "Make a Little Magic" utilized Nicolette Larson's sweet-sounding voice. "High Horse" is dominated with an old country sound, led by jangly guitar strumming and quick singing, and "Dance Little Jean" pulls firmly at the heartstrings, making it a country radio mainstay. With such a lengthy career and numerous personnel changes since their formation in 1966, Twenty Years of Dirt in no way sums up the lifespan of the band, but it does do a good job at bunching their best commercial years onto one album.
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AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne