Various Artists

Classic Country, Vol. 1 [Varese Sarabande]

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The definition of what constitutes "classic country" might vary a lot from listener to listener, and it's hard to compress the best of whatever "classic country" is into 18 songs, even considering this is just the first volume of a series. For the purposes of this series, classic country seems to be regarded as high-quality country music between the mid-'50s and early '70s that also made the country Top Ten, sometimes crossing over in a big way to the pop charts, too. Unless you're a huge country collector who might have most or all of these songs anyway, though, it's best to relax and just enjoy the CD, which is a pretty good grouping of vintage country hits from 1956-1970. Certainly a bunch of these will be familiar even to pop listeners: Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," Dave Dudley's trucking anthem "Six Days on the Road," Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight," Marty Robbins' "El Paso," Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John," Bobby Bare's "Detroit City," Sammi Smith's "Help Me Make It Through the Night," and Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden." It also has some decent cuts that might not be automatically recognizable to oldies radio listeners, though, like Ned Miller's "From a Jack to a King," Cowboy Copas' "Alabam," Nat Stuckey's "Sweet Thang," and Wynn Stewart's "Wishful Thinking." There are also a few songs by big country names who never got a wide pop hearing, like George Jones' "Walk Through the World With Me" and Hank Thompson's "On Tap, in the Can, or in the Bottle." The world probably doesn't need to have Jim Reeves' soppy "He'll Have to Go" on yet another anthology (and it does appear here). But otherwise this is quite a respectable basic country compilation, with thorough though not exhaustive annotation about each track.