Don Gibson: The Best Of The Hickory Records Years (1970–1978) (Omnivore Recordings)

When Nashville crooner Don Gibson signed to Hickory Records in 1970, he had already experience an amazing career, with a handful of hits such as “Oh, Lonesome Me” and “Blue Blue Heartache,” as well as writing such country classics as “Sweet Dreams” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Yet like many of his contemporaries, he began the new decade with something of a career slump. A new label affiliation seemed just the thing to revitalize his career, and omnivore recordings’ new compilation,The Best Of The Hickory Records Years (1970–1978) collects twenty tracks from the last phase of his recording career.

Gibson must have realized he had nothing to prove, as the material he released over the eight year association with Hickory is nothing short of cool, twangy country that rarely sounds like he’s trying too hard. While country was morphing into countrypolitan and turning into a Hee Haw factory courtesy of the Bakersfield sound, Gibson was doubling down on twangy sounds that didn’t need overproduction or a lush string section. His sole number one hit gearing this time period,”Woman (Sensuous Woman),” was a gorgeous, plaintive ballad laced with a gorgeous pedal steel melody. In an era of excessive, over-the-top production, Gibson was a balm; songs such as “Country Green,” “Bring Back Your Love To Me,” and “One Day At A Time” were stripped down affairs that had more in common with his early 1950s hits than the contemporary country scene. Listeners appreciated it, too; all three singles would be top ten country hits, and almost all of the nearly forty singles he released during this time would hit the top one hundred.

Yet at some point Gibson came to the conclusion that he had accomplished enough in his nearly three decades of music making, as he would abruptly end his recording career concurrently with his 50th birthday. After 1978, he would release no new material; he would perform very rarely, opting to live a quiet life until his death in 2003 at the age of 75.. Even though this last phase of his career is unfortunately overshadowed by the glory days of his first decade as a recording artist, The Best Of The Hickory Records Years (1970–1978)  is an essential collection of a fine singer bowing out gracefully while showing the world that he was going out at the top of his game.

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