Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lefty Frizzell

  • Lefty Frizzell's Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1966]
  • Columbia Historic Edition [Columbia, 1982]
  • The Best of Lefty Frizzell [Rhino, 1991] A+
  • Look What Thoughts Will Do [Columbia/Legacy, 1997] A+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lefty Frizzell's Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1966]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Columbia Historic Edition [Columbia, 1982]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Best of Lefty Frizzell [Rhino, 1991]
Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson are unimaginable without him, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and George Jones his only artistic rivals, and for sheer vocal pleasure the texture and definition of his casual drawl tops them all. Keeping pain at bay with the merest hint of good-humored resignation, his soft-edged phrasing achieves honky-tonk satori whether he's meditating ("Look What Thoughts Will Do") or stepping out ("I'm an Old, Old Man"). Without ever grandstanding, he packs enormous musical force. He can write--sad, funny, jubilant, always terse. And though the portion of his catalogue that keeps recirculating is never bad or even ordinary, no previous collection has maintained such a standard of tuneful eloquence. A+

Look What Thoughts Will Do [Columbia/Legacy, 1997]
Rather than competing with Rhino's definitive 18-cut Best of, this two-CD set repeats it piecemeal around 16 newcomers, many never before U.S.-available. The tape I made of these has its lulls--"Forbidden Lovers" is Merle ordinaire, "Don't Let Her See Me Cry" is femme-chorus ordinaire, and so forth. But even the lulls have their charms. From the intricate "Don't Think It's Been Fun, Dear (Cuz It Ain't)" through the long-lost Jimmie Rodgers covers and the unknowns that sound eternal, most are extraordinaire. Sure he's a honky-tonk rounder, but he's only loud for contrast. His gift is his unhurried phrasing and two-stepping guitar, how gently he promises heaven and goes to hell. A+