Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:
Having demonstrated its multiplatinum muscle and then succumbed to inevitable shortfalls, country music endures as a bastion of hit radio and professional songwriting. It lives off a singles aesthetic--clever lyrics set to catchy tunes backed by a cadre of crack studio musicians and, if we're lucky, infused with a stirring vocal. So if we stay lucky, the way to buy country artists is in the greatest-hits format.

The current prize is Mark Chesnutt's Greatest Hits (MCA), by a homely little powerhouse from East Texas who did well to survive Nashville's hunk boom with his cowboy hat intact. Much is made of Chesnutt's authenticity, but whether Bubba Shot the Jukebox actually reminds him of his long-gone tour of duty in honky-tonk dives needn't concern outsiders. What matters is that it exploits good-old-boy myth with grit and humor, just like Goin' Through the Big D ("and I don't mean Dallas") and It Sure Is Monday (catching Z's on lunch break). If he puts less juice into his ballads, songs as well-crafted as Almost Goodbye and I'll Think of Something stay moist on their own.

Skip current best-ofs by Clint Black, who turned hunk after a superb debut album; Vince Gill, Nashville's answer to Julio Iglesias; and Keith Whitley, who got better after he passed away in 1989 because his label could no longer produce him to death. Instead, try John Anderson's Greatest Hits (BNA). The veteran's second album by that name is less classic than the one on Warners but does top MCA's You Can't Keep a Good Memory Down. After a hellraising youth, Anderson has come to specialize in warm, humorously observed songs of country and/or married life like Money in the Bank and I've Got It Made. And after all these years he still knows how to stir them up.

Playboy, Jan. 1997


Nov. 1996 Feb. 1997