20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Dave Dudley

by: Dave Dudley

Dave Dudley is one of the kings of truck-driving country, but his recorded legacy has been neglected in terms of CD reissues. That's why 2002's 12-track 20th Century Masters is such a welcome release. It may have some flaws -- chief among them, it contains the Mercury re-recordings of his signature anthem, "Six Days on the Road," and "Cowboy Boots," not the original Golden Wing versions of the song. (This is good all the same, but it would have been nicer to have the classic original.) Still, the utter lack of Dudley on CD makes it easy to accept with open arms. The other flaw is that it's a little bit short at 12 tracks, but given the utter lack of classic Dudley on CD, it seems a little churlish to complain, particularly because this contains the majority of his big Mercury hits: the story-song "Last Day in the Mines," the tough-as-nails "Mad," the deliriously funny drunk-driving tale "Two Six Packs Away," "Truck Drivin' Son of a Gun," his pro-Vietnam tune "What We're Fighting For," the travelogue "There Ain't No Easy Run," and the character sketch "The Pool Shark." All these pretty much stick to his signature, Bakersfield-styled truck-driving sound -- filled with twangy Telecasters and rolling, two-step rhythms -- but there are also hits that show how Dudley could stretch: the ballad "Please Let Me Prove (My Love for You)," along with the 1971 "Comin' Down" and "Fly Away Again," which both bear the hallmarks of post-Glen Campbell, post-psychedelia country-pop (check out the extremely flanged guitars on the latter!). This is just enough variety and just enough hits to make you hunger for more classic '60s Dave Dudley, but this is all that's easily available. So, until a more thorough compilation comes along -- one that rounds up such missing singles as "Under Cover of the Night," "Vietnam Blues," "Lonelyville," "Trucker's Prayer," and "Anything Leaving Town Today" along with album tracks -- this stands as the best Dudley collection on the market, and it's a necessary purchase for anybody who loves truck-driving country. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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