As big a star as Lefty Frizzell was in his 1950s heyday, and as big a honky-tonk hero as he was to Merle Haggard, he was a little too mellow to cast as large a shadow on subsequent trailblazers as Hank Williams, Buck Owens, or (arguably) even less celebrated icons such as Johnny Horton did. This Australian import focuses on the rather contained, reassuring early-’50s hits that have usually formed the bulk of his greatest-hits discs, also including his original 1959 version of “The Long Black Veil”, the one Frizzell classic likely to be familiar to listeners without a big country library.
But this 28-track disc is indeed, as the liner notes proclaim, the “first single CD multi-label overview of his hit career.” As Frizzell was with Columbia almost to the end of that career, however, it’s not quite as much of a feat to pull off as it might seem. Over half of it dates from the first half of the 1950s; there are just two songs from the ’60s, though one of these is his final huge smasheroo, “Saginaw, Michigan”, on which he convincingly updated his sound with slightly smoother Nashville pop production.
The final seven cuts (most of them low-charting singles) do jump beyond the Columbia catalogue, sampling his tail-end stint with ABC in 1973-75. While it usually spells trouble when items from the final days are appended to a hits collection, these are actually strong and dignified performances; the more mainstream embellishments of ’70s production are kept to a minimum, particularly on “That’s The Way Love Goes”.
You can still get both the two-disc Columbia/Legacy comp Look What Thoughts Will Do and the ABC retrospective That’s The Way Love Goes: The Final Recordings Of Lefty Frizzell for a fuller view, but for those on a tighter budget, this will do nicely.