Described as Australia's answer to Garth Brooks, country singer/songwriter Lee Kernaghan has not only maintained his family's musical legacy (parents Pam and Ray were both successful artists in the '60s) but has also achieved national treasure status in his beloved homeland, yet still remains pretty much an unknown figure everywhere else. Ultimate Hits, a 42-track compilation selected by his fan base, is therefore the ideal opportunity for those looking for the best that the country scene down under has to offer to see what all the fuss is about. Spanning his 19-year career, all but one of his ten studio albums are represented (only 1999's The Christmas Album is neglected), from his 1992 ARIA Award-winning debut, The Outback Club ("Boys from the Bush," "High Country") to 2007's commercial peak Spirit of the Bush ("Hat Town") to 2009's most recent Planet Country ("Love in the Time of Draught," "Dirt"). With his authentic tales of life in the Outback and championing of the late Aussie country legend Slim Dusty (who not only appears on the duet "Leave Him in the Longyard" but is also the subject of the tribute song "Missin' Slim" and the original performer of "Cunnamulla Feller"), it's easy to see why his traditional brand of blue-collar country-rock has struck a chord with homegrown audiences, but there's plenty here capable of translating elsewhere, particularly the duets with CMT staples Trisha Yearwood ("Goondiwindi Moon," "Diamantina Dream") and Dierks Bentley ("Scars") and the album's sole new composition, "Fire," a feel-good Hammond organ-driven collaboration with the lesser-known Robyn McKelvie. The inclusion of the latter, alongside a live cover of "Great Balls of Fire" recorded at CMC Rocks the Snowys and a remix of "Love Shack," throws a few new bones to his fans, but otherwise Ultimate Hits does what it says on the tin. Indeed, more comprehensive and up to date than 2004's The Big Ones (15 of its 19 tracks also appear here), it's a solid collection of no-nonsense country-rock anthems proving that his unparalleled success is more than justified.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien
feat: Colin Buchanan