In common with many artists, Hank Snow is most highly regarded for his early recorded work, with his 1950s output considered his most groundbreaking. His career stretched long beyond the '50s, however, and not at much expense to his popularity, as he had a country chart-topper as late as 1974 with "Hello Love." This two-CD collection has 40 tracks that hit the country charts between 1961 and 1979, ranging from big smashes to singles that (especially in the '70s) just grazed the listings. It might not be the first or second Snow anthology most critical guides would advise you to pick up, but it has its good points, especially on the '60s material featured on disc one. At this point, he retained much of his honky tonk vitality on record, though most of these hits were written by others (1961's "The Restless One" being a notable exception). Some notable composers wrote some of these 45s, such as the Big Bopper (who wrote "Beggar to a King" under his real name, J.P. Richardson), Cindy Walker
, Tompall Glaser
, and Harlan Howard
(the last two of whom co-wrote "I've Cried a Mile"). Snow departed from his usual approach on more than one occasion with some positive results, too, like the 1963 Tex Mex-flavored "The Man Who Robbed the Bank at Santa Fe" (co-written by Jerry Leiber
, Mike Stoller
, and Billy Edd Wheeler
); the near-rockabilly of "Breakfast with the Blues"; and, oddest of all, 1968's "Who Will Answer? (Aleuya No. 1)," which seems to betray some influence, if just a hint, of Bob Dylan
-style mid-'60s folk-rock both lyrically and musically. Things do start dragging on the '70s material, which takes up most of disc two, with Snow, like many early country pioneers, taking ever blander and more slickly produced roads down Nashville's mainstream. He still retained his genial, low-key vocals and feel for honky tonk much of the time, though his 1977 semi-remake of his biggest hit, "I'm Still Movin' On," was bound to pale next to its prototype. Even Snow fans might be tempted to skip some of this depending on their tastes, but it's an intelligently compiled and packaged retrospective of this secondary era of his career, with some definite highlights.