Rodney Crowell has enjoyed a long career as both a songwriter and as a recording artist/performer. He's long outlasted most of the generation he came to Nash Vegas with and has continued to be relevant into the 21st century. There are bona fide country classics in his album catalog including 1978's Ain't Livin' Long Like This, his self-titled 1981 album, Diamonds & Dirt from 1989, and Houston Kid and Fate's Right Hand from this new century. Add to this a slew of hit singles and solid should-have-beens and it adds up to a spectacular career. Legacy attempts to document the longevity and breadth of it on the Essential Rodney Crowell. The original Rodney Crowell Collection was stellar though it only covered his early years. This set comes full circle, but with only 15 tracks it feels incomplete. For starters why re-recorded versions of "I Ain't Living Long Like This" and "'Til I Gain Control Again" were chosen over the originals are inexplicable and inferior. Why "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight" is not here is puzzling as well. Thankfully "Shame on the Moon," and "Stars on the Water" are here. Also included are recordings of "I Couldn't Leave You if I Tried," "After All This Time," "The Last Waltz" and "Many a Long & Lonesome Highway." Also inexplicable is the inclusion of his version of "I Walk the Line." Having "Sill Learning How to Fly" and "Oh King Richard," on the same collection is a plus. The bottom line is that there isn't anything bad here, but the Essential Rodney Crowell should have warranted a double disc, or at least something as representative and comprehensive as Raven's excellent, 21- cut Small Worlds: The Crowell Collection 1978-1995. Here's hoping for either another best-of that goes further, or a box set -- Crowell's catalog and legacy deserve better than this.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek