A concise and well-selected overview, Marty Robbins's ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS packs 20 songs by this eclectic singer onto one disc. Though categorized as a country artist, Robbins defied pigeonholing with his forays into styles as diverse as gospel, mariachi music, and sentimental ballads, yet he always managed to infuse each song with his own distinctive style. Robbins is probably best known for Western-themed story-songs, which usually involve romance, gunfights, and dusty Southwestern settings. The two prime examples, the nearly epic tale recounted in "El Paso" and the lugubrious "Streets of Laredo," lead off this collection, though the surging, minor-key "Big Iron" ranks alongside the two better-known tunes.
Robbins's straightforward singing style bears the stamp of pop crooners more than the twang of Nashville. In fact, Robbins recalls the smooth vocalizing of early Sun Studios artists (particularly Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich) on "Maria (If I Could)" and "Devil Woman." If Robbins throws out a few curveballs, such as the fuzzed-out guitar solo on the otherwise honky-tonk-flavored "Don't Worry" or the light, folk feel of "Ribbon of Darkness," it is all to his credit. This generous compilation is a perfect place to sample Robbins's genre-melding talents.