Epic/Legacy's 2003 collection The Essential Joe Diffie weighs in at 14 tracks, just two less than the 2002 collection 16 Biggest Hits, with which it shares a whopping 12 tracks. Given that considerable overlap, it's not surprising that the two collections are essentially interchangeable, but 16 Biggest Hits has the edge, not just because it has two more tracks, but because the four songs unique to that collection are stronger than the two unique songs here (for the record, they are the Mary Chapin Carpenter duet "Not Too Much to Ask," which has never appeared on a Joe Diffie album, and the modest hit "This Is Your Brain"). That said, The Essential Joe Diffie is hardly a bad album -- after, it's pretty much the same album, down to identical sequencing for the first three cuts -- and it is also an effective overview of the peak of Diffie's career. 16 Biggest Hits may be slightly stronger, but that's all it is: a slight difference. On its own terms, The Essential Joe Diffie is a first-rate collection.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Mary Chapin Carpenter