This collection of 20 of Carl Smith's classic sides from the years 1950-56 reveal him at the height of his popularity. It also reveals his strengths as a singer of Western Swing, honky tonk, and even transitional pop ballads. Smith's voice is pure country and, while he loved hard honky tonk music such as "Does Your Conscience Bother You?" and Ernest Tubb's "Don't Just Stand There," he also had the distinction -- some at the time would say it was a negative one -- of using a drummer. He was the first country performer to do so, and the drums can be heard on "I Just Dropped in to Say Goodbye," "Are You Teasing Me," "Dog Gone It Baby, I'm In Love," "Back Up Buddy," the rockabilly "Go Boy Go," and the amazing "Loose Talk." Smith, who was a contemporary of Hank Williams, came from the same hard country school, his voice carrying within it that same high lonesome edge, but his ideas about production removed him from country's mainstream. No one can argue with success, though, and Smith charted from 1950 through 1970 in all years but one. Some of those songs, like Boudleaux Bryant's "Hey Joe," and his reading of Leon Payne's "You Are The One," as well as Porter Wagoner's moving "Trademark," are all stunning examples of Smith's amazing voice, one that could interpret virtually any song as a country heartbreaker or a honky tonk two-step. Of all the Smith collections issued over the years, this one is definitive, and easily the most representative of the singer at his most innovative and adventurous. There is no way someone with any intelligence can listen to Buddy Holly or Gene Vincent and not hear Smith' influence; that's as solid a testimony as there is that his music transcends genres.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek