Rounder's celebration of Bill Morrissey's 20th anniversary as a recording artist, dubbed The Essential Collection, is a hearty 20-track collection culling at least one track from each record he's released over the years, except for the duet album with Greg Brown, Friend of Mine. The label did a fine job assembling the tracks with a comfortable flow to showcase Morrissey at his poetic best, and while all of these songs are welcome collected together in one place, the three new tracks Morrissey recorded for inclusion on the release are the biggest treat here. "Fifty," his affirming song that distills the stereotype of those "over the hill," is a stripped-down, comical number that appears early in the collection and boasts, "Hey you kids, this ain't no jive/But I've seen the Beatles live," and as if to rub it in a bit further he croons another benefit of being born a half century ago: "Best of all, I can't get drafted." The other two new tracks, "Just Today" and "Boston Eyes," close out the collection. "Just Today" is a playful, jaunty folk-pop number and "Boston Eyes" features a more subdued melody, but both are played with the easy, freewheeling confidence fans have come to expect from Morrissey and will, no doubt, be a big draw to this collection for fans of his work.
AllMusic Review by Gregory McIntosh