Don Gibson was one of the great country singer/songwriters of the post-rock & roll years, penning the standards "Sweet Dreams," "Oh Lonesome Me," "I Can't Stop Lovin' You," and "Sea of Heartbreak" -- songs that became hits for Gibson and other singers in the late 1950s and '60s. During this period, Gibson belonged to RCA's formidable country roster, cutting a strong catalog of records that have been reissued so often, it gives the impression that his career dried up after he left the label in 1970. That's why Omnivore's 2018 compilation The Best of the Hickory Records Years (1970-1978) is such an important release: It is the first-ever digital collection spotlighting the hits had during the '70s, which were considerable (a previous 2001 collection by Varese, 20 Greatest Songs, tipped the scales in favor of re-recordings of RCA hits).
Gibson was no piker during this period: He scored Top 10 hits as late as 1974's "Bring Back Your Love to Me" and had a number one hit in 1972 with "Woman (Sensuous Woman)," just two of the over 30 singles he placed in the Billboard Country charts during this time. At 25 tracks, Omnivore's collection isn't complete, but it does contain the cream of the crop of his hits and makes a convincing case that Gibson's '70s output was impressive. Gibson wasn't immune to following trends. His music got softer and suppler, occasionally dipping into some paisley-accented trends -- the set opens with his cover of Joe South's "Games People Play" -- but it remained unmistakably the work of Music City pros: Its lush textures are as carefully constructed as the songs themselves. Gibson made a few concessions to the times, such as a cover of Mel & Tim's 1972 smooth soul hit "Starting All Over Again," but he never chased a youthful audience, and that's why his Hickory sides hold up so well. Even with those slick touches, Gibson made music for adults, and that's why it's weathered so well.