This collection of fourteen tracks, pulled from tribute albums and guest appearances on other artists' albums, displays the breadth of Yoakam's work with a conciseness that his own albums never could. To be fair, Yoakam's releases have been purpose-built as more focused efforts, and this collection, drawing from disparate sources across a full decade of recording, has a broader charter. It's astounding to hear in one place just how easily Yoakam fits into rootsy mountain bluegrass, honky-tonk country, smooth adult contemporary pop, and earthy blues-inspired country-rock.
Yoakam provides the ballast for Ralph Stanley's high-and-lonely on the latter's "Down Where the River Bends," and Stanley returns the favor by taking Yoakam's "Miner's Prayer" into the hills from which it was dug. Yoakam's honky-tonk outlaw heroes are recognized on covers of Waylon Jennings' "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)," Johnny Cash's "Understand Your Man," and Webb Pierce's "If You Were Me (And I Were You)." The latter, featuring harmonies by Gail Davies, is just one of several wonderful duets that include Deana Carter's adult-contemporary "Waiting" and Heather Miles' Mexicali-flavored "Little Chapel."
Yoakam is transcendent, surrounded by the acoustic sounds of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and tearing through "Mercury Blues" and ZZ Top's "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide." Bonus tracks include previously unreleased covers of Little Eva's "Loco-Motion" and two versions of John Prine's "Paradise." Other artists may have similar range, but precious few have the artistic gravity to make such a compilation cohesive. This is an essential collection for fans and an interesting introduction to Yoakam's breadth.