Exactly what it says -- a veritable greatest-hits collection that showcases just why Big Bill Broonzy is one of the most important blues figures ever. To be fair, the very early material either hasn't cleaned up well, or not a lot of money has been invested in technical work, and some of the sides are barely listenable because of scratches. But, in a perverse way, that's part of the appeal. The sound quality improves considerably (it's only the three tracks pre-1930 where it's a problem). His version of "Key to the Highway," probably his best-known piece, is from the '40s and is still as stinging now as it was then. But it's only one of 23 highlights here; this, after all, is the man who helped shape blues from a rural Mississippi sound to its new urban home in Chicago, literally one of the seminal figures of the genre. Just listen to his "C.C. Rider" or "Milk Cow Blues" and you can hear the raw, rough foundation of rock & roll, as well as the deep roots of the blues. And "House Rent Blues" and "Big Bill Blues" aren't just blues songs -- they stand as commentary on the state of the nation and its people. If you only buy one Broonzy album -- and everyone needs at least one -- then this is it; it's vital.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson