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Porter Wagoner

The Best I've Ever Been – 2000 (Shell Point)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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CDs by Porter Wagoner

The album's title is not that far from the truth. This is one of the best recordings that Porter Wagoner has done. For his first new project in more than two decades, the 72-year old Opry star decided against taking the easy road. Rather than re-cutting his hit songs or relying on country favorites, Wagoner gives us 11 new songs, 10 written for him by fellow Missourian Damon Black.

Wagoner delivers each song with energy and conviction. Clearly, he's found material he likes. Whether it's uptempo numbers like "The Fiddle and The Bow" or "Brewster's Farm" or slower ballads like "I Knew This Day Would Come" or "Broken Hearts Beat On," Wagoner never misses a beat. He never oversings, but at the same time, he doesn't play it safe by holding back. While many older artists' voices can strain or crack, Wagoner's voice is on target at all times.

This album is a perfect example of a great artist and a talented songwriter being in synch. These songs were written with Wagoner in mind, and it shows. Songs like "To Make That Same Mistake Again," "Daddy's Old Sayings, Mama's Beliefs" and "Til The Right One Comes Along," are pure country and sound like they could've been hit songs if he had recorded them years earlier. The album wraps up with "When The Silver Eagle Meets The Great Speckled Bird," an enjoyable tribute song to the older country artists. The material here is fresh and new, but at the same time it sounds like "vintage Wagoner." It's a wonderful album.