After kicking around Nashville for a while -- recording for RCA, UA, and Epic, all without success -- Ed Bruce landed at MCA in 1980, where he finally managed to have success by positioning himself somewhere between the cowboy fantasies of outlaw and the commerciality of urban cowboy. He wound up sounding like a cross between a tamer Waylon Jennings and an adventurous Kenny Rogers, which wasn't a bad thing, and it led to several hits between 1980 and 1986, by which time he moved to RCA. All of them (with the mild exception of a few minor latter-day hits for RCA) are on Varese's 18-track 1995 collection The Best of Ed Bruce. This also features the first version of "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," which he co-wrote with Patsy Bruce and had a hit with on United Artists in 1975, before Waylon and Willie brought it fame in 1978. It's the earthiest thing here and it's also the best, in no small measure due to that hint of earthiness, but his MCA material is also enjoyable. It is a little subdued and samey, with a production too polished for a real cowboy, but its gentleness suits Bruce's warm voice and he has a good taste in material, along with a knack for writing sturdy songs. This music is a little sleepy, but not in an unpleasant way, and it does capture the moment when outlaw was diluted with country-pop. Perhaps it's not Bruce's very best work, but it is his most popular, and it is good listening, even if it is a little dated.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Willie Nelson