The Essential Marty Robbins
Another Marty Robbins anthology, another reason to marvel anew at the breadth, depth, and integrity of "Mister Teardrop" 's overwhelming artistry. The 40 tracks on these two CDs trace the arc of Robbins's 30-year recording career, largely on the Columbia label (save for a brief fling with MCA in the early '70s, also represented here). He penned more than a few western classics -- including the towering "El Paso" and its underappreciated -- though chart-topping -- sequel, "El Paso City," but Robbins never limited himself to one genre, effortlessly intertwining pop, country, rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, traditional country, and blues with an enviable emotional commitment. It wasn't so much the high caliber of material he wrote or covered that set him apart, but rather the soulful and intelligent use he made of his beautiful, plaintive tenor voice to convey the sharpest lyrics with a potent punch. Robbins was fully invested in every note he sang, and that sense of giving unsparingly of his heart and soul continues to amaze, whether on the baroque Mitch Miller productions on Robbins's landmark '50s hits "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)" and "The Story of My Life," the spare, basic band arrangements of "El Paso" and "Big Iron," or the schmaltzy orchestral charts on melodramatic ballads such as "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife." Artists like Marty Robbins and his peer Johnny Cash, who stayed true to their vision throughout their lives, leave behind an astounding, enduring body of work.