From its inception in the mid-'70s until the late '90s, Austin City Limits was the premier country music television show in America. What distinguished the show from its competition was its emphasis on performance -- each show spotlights one or two artists, plus various guest artists who are allowed to play whatever they want. The result was a series of freewheeling, eclectic, and passionate music shows unlike any other. The Best of Austin City Limits: Country Music's Finest Hour collects 16 highlights from the show's long, illustrious history and, as expected, some of the biggest name in country music are involved. From Merle Haggard ("Silver Wings," 1978) and George Jones ("He Stopped Loving Her Today," 1985) to Asleep at the Wheel ("Boogie Back to Texas," 1987) and Alison Krauss ("Baby, Now That I've Found You," 1995), the album has a wide selection of first-rate artists and stellar performances that hint at the rich legacy of the show. In fact, if there's anything wrong with the disc, is the fact that it feels incomplete, even though it includes such luminaries as Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, k.d. lang, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dwight Yoakam, the Mavericks, the Judds, Charlie Daniels, and Patty Loveless. There's no fault with any of these selections, indeed, but after the disc is finished, you're waiting for the sequel.
AllMusic Review by Thom Owens