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Big & Rich

Greatest Hits – 2009 (Warner)

Reviewed by Tim Johnson

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CDs by Big & Rich

Thoroughly unafraid to lead the freak parade for the better part of this decade, Big Kenny and John Rich have repeatedly demonstrated their range in each of their three studio albums, giving voice to tender ballads alongside their over-the-top party hits. That range is well-showcased here.

As is often the case with hits collections, the way you feel about this album will be directly related to how you feel about Big and Rich, a duo that has served to divide the country community between those who have written them off as shallow and gimmicky and those who see them as a breath of fresh air. There are no real surprises in the song selection - the 15 tracks, which include all of their singles, are divided fairly evenly between "Horse of a Different Color," "Comin' to Your City" and "Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace," with one track, a Saturday night stomper called Everybody's Rockin', taken from their 2008 EP "Big and Rich's Super Galactic Fan Pak 2."

The lone new release, The Man I Am Right Now, is fun enough, a Texas fiddle-infused refusal to grow up and be like everyone else, with lyrics like "I'm still shootin' whisky and they're all nursin' beer/Maybe someday I'll be just like them and settle my ass down/That just ain't the man I am right now."

While one cannot complain about the songs themselves, the CD lacks the quirks that have made listening to a full-length Big and Rich album an interesting experience. One missed fun little songs, like their collaboration with Wyclef Jean on Please Man or their twang retake on You Shook Me All Night Long, as well as their peace and love shout-outs and surprise visits by Cowboy Troy.

The album is as much a tribute to B&R's songwriting talent as their vocal prowess, with at least one of the pair involved in writing each track - with the exception of chart dud Loud . Some of their very best songs, it must be said, are not here. Perhaps one day the two will release a Phil Vassar-style greatest hits where they put forth their own versions of songs they've written, recorded by others (such as Faith Hill's Mississippi Girl and Jason Aldean's Amarillo Sky). Now that would be a greatest hits album worthy of Big and Rich's quirkiness and creative flair.