Various Artists

The Only Classic Country Collection You'll Ever Need

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One usually has to cast a wary glance at any collection titled The Only Classic Country Collection You’ll Ever Need. In this case, however, Shout Factory has come very close with this Derek Dressler-produced compilation. Thirty-four tracks contained on two discs offer a view of “classic country” -- that’s Nashville country during its golden era from the '40 through 1980. Sure, connoisseurs will argue over this or that track being included or excluded, but the one thing they can’t argue is that virtually all of these songs were hits -- big ones. The vast majority of titles are instantly recognizable to anyone with even minimal knowledge of the genre. Beginning with Ernest Tubb's honky tonk anthem “Walking te Floor Over You” and Bob Wills' “New San Antonio Rose,” disc one moves through Lefty Frizzell’s party shout-out “If You’ve Got th the Money I’ve Got the Time,” Hank Williams’ strutting “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” and Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” without leaving the women out of the mix. Patti Page’s signature tune, “The Tennessee Waltz,” Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” are here too. George Jones, Hank Snow, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ray Charles, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, Eddy Arnold, and Johnny Cash all make that first disc, too. Disc two commences with Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (both singles were crossover smashes) and gets Tammy Wynette, Glen Campbell, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynne, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Charlie Rich, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Freddy Fender, Crystal Gayle, Kenny Rogers, and the outlaws: Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings (who appear together on “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and separately) into its grooves. Each track was a bona fide hit; some crossed over into the pop market Some, like Reeves’ “Four Walls,” Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” became international smashes as well. The sound on this set is top-notch and remastered; there is also a brief but insightful liner essay by Colin Escott, and each track is given complete discographical information in the booklet that also contains some great vintage promo shots.

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