Dwight Yoakam was one of the best things to happen to country music in the 1980s and '90s, at once reminding Nashville and Bakersfield of the strength and power of their musical roots while adding a potent shot of energy and attitude that made his retro-styled music sound fresh and strong. The fact that Yoakam is also a top-shelf singer and songwriter was the icing on the cake, and as you might expect, given the strength of his back catalog, there are a number of first-rate Dwight Yoakam compilations on the market, most notably 1989's Just Lookin' for a Hit and 1999's Last Chance for a Thousand Years: Greatest Hits from the 1990s. By comparison, titling this budget-priced Canadian compilation The Essentials seems foolishly optimistic; yes, there are 12 great songs here, and several of Yoakam's biggest hits are on board, but this hardly represents the be-all and end-all of his career, even if you're only looking for the chart-toppers. The quality of the music is undeniable, the remastering sounds clear and sharp, and if you want a short shot of classic Yoakam to throw in the car stereo or the boom box, this will do. But the truth is you can do a lot better than this if you do just a bit of digging. Points docked for the really goofy looking picture on the front cover.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming